A Celebration of Claire M. Fagin
On the 40th anniversary of her arrival at Penn and the 10th anniversary of naming our building, Claire M. Fagin Hall, we are proud to celebrate the ongoing impact of Dr. Fagin on our school and the profession of nursing.
Claire Fagin’s deanship was transformational for Penn Nursing in many ways, including strengthening our commitment to student support. To this day, Claire remains dedicated to ensuring Penn Nursing remains the number one school of nursing, which means we must continue to attract the best and brightest students. What better way to honor Claire and celebrate her 90th birthday than to establish a scholarship in the name of her and her husband, Sam – two of the School’s greatest advocates.
Please join us in raising $125,000 to establish the Claire and Sam Fagin Scholarship at the School of Nursing and help to ensure that the most talented students have access to the exceptional education and incredible opportunities that are unique to our School.
Below is a rotating sample of the many messages to Claire received from friends at Penn Nursing and beyond in honor of her 90th birthday. To add your message for publication on the website, please submit it here.
Meeting Claire Fagin was like breathing in wonderfully fresh air. It was 1977 and I was Assistant Vice President for Health Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania. The Vice President, Tom Langfitt, was key in a search process for a new Dean of Nursing. Claire was a candidate. She breezed, literally, into the office wearing elegant leather pants, a self-assured smile on her face and a walk that more than hinted at her taking over the world. Well, it wasn’t quite the world she took over – but it was the School of Nursing and later on the whole University. Her leadership, smarts, and humor shaped and changed things – moving them forward to new horizons. I’d say she was also beautiful and sexy, but that probably would be un-p.c.
Over the years, my treasured friendship with Claire grew. It has been and always will be a treat to be with her. It is still like breathing wonderfully fresh air.
We have known Claire since 1993. Jodi and I worked for Claire when she was the interim president at Penn. We go to NY a few times each year to visit with her and Sam and love our time with her. Last Christmas we took our children to see them. Claire is FAMILY to us.
–Michelle Jester & Jodi Sarkisian
It is such an honor and thrill to send you best wishes on your “major milestones” and to be able to celebrate with you at the 2016 Fagin Award lecture and reception! I have so many wonderful memories of coming to Penn in the late 1980s, being hired into the SON fold as you, Joan Lynaugh, Mathy Mezey, Neville Strumpf and Lois Evans (among others) advanced nursing practice. You championed advanced practice and faculty practice models and I love that Penn Nursing Network practices, including the Continence practice, began under your tenure. I still get asked “what’s a nice girl like you doing in job like this (referring to urology)?” and smile when I think of the somewhat crazy things Mathy and I did (with your blessing) to provide care for frail, older persons with urinary incontinence. You were, and continue to be, an inspiration and I thank you for all you’ve done for nursing, geriatric nursing, and health care!
Best wishes to you Claire, and I look forward to many more celebrations!
With love and gratitude,
My first contact with Claire was in the spring of 1979 when she called me to come to Penn Nursing to start a new midwifery program. I was then Director of the graduate midwifery program at Columbia University and trying to finish my doctoral program. As I was later to realize, Claire, you were an expert in recruiting and made me an offer I could not refuse. Not only did you offer me the opportunity to create a midwifery program from the ground up in the way I thought it should be done (I had taught and directed two programs to date for 8 years - both of which were the longest running programs), you agreed to pay for me to finish data collection with a statistical consultant so that I could finish my Doctor in Public Health degree and offered me a very nice salary to do what I loved doing! Your leadership of Penn Nursing was stellar, and I benefited as did many other relatively junior faculty. What stands out about you in my mind, Claire, is your character. You are honest, caring, stubborn when needed, and most of all, trustworthy. You shared that trust in me to establish a top-rated midwifery program and practice, and your encouragement, support, and unquestionable loyalty brought out the best in me and in Penn Nursing. I learned many valuable life lessons from you Claire that have served and continue to serve me well in the international efforts to save the lives of women and newborns, using competent, caring midwives. Many blessings for your continued mentoring and enjoyment of whatever life brings your way. I regret I cannot be with you in person on October 26th, but will be with you in spirit.
Joyce Beebe Thompson
You have been and will continue to be my guiding spirit. You have created untold opportunities for me to have a major impact on the care and outcomes of vulnerable older adults and their family caregivers. I, and more importantly, the people who depend on nurses for guidance and support owe you countless thanks. I don’t know what mystical spirit arranged for me to be one of the starlets in your universe but I wake up every day feeling so blessed to have you as a treasured mentor and friend.
Dearest Dean Fagin,
I had the most wonderful 40-year career at the University of Pennsylvania, and I owe it all to you. As Dean, you made sure that each of your faculty was supported and encouraged so that they could be successful. I was certainly a beneficiary of your amazing caring leadership. Words are insufficient in expressing my gratitude to you. So thank you for all your help and for being our Dean. Congratulations on the continued recognition of your remarkable achievements and for mentoring so many nursing leaders.
Mary Ann Lafferty Della Valle
In 1993 just after Claire had been made the Interim President of the University, a group of us were in the ladies room after the Trustees’ meeting. Suddenly someone shouted, “Heads up, the President is in the ladies room!” It took us about two seconds to realize that of course the President was in the ladies room…it was Claire! Everyone cheered for the first woman President of the University of Pennsylvania.
Claire was legendary before I met her, and I was thrilled at last to do so in 1982, when I was invited to consider a faculty position at Penn–because Claire had already recruited so many people from NY, I was told (by her) that she was not recruiting me–others were! Anyway, I got the job (without a job talk, or even a contract until after I moved here–talk about trust!). On arrival, I was to report to the Business Administrator (Pat Burke) for an office and some orientation. I earned $26,000–and I thought I had just landed on the moon. What a glorious time–building a school, creating programs, establishing research, working with some of the best faculty and students anywhere. The guiding mantra was be the best and be #1–and we all believed it, and became it, and were changed forever.
A thousand thank yous and love,
It’s all about impact and that, our dear Claire, is your legacy.
From one parent advocate to another, I will be forever grateful for wide shoulders. Thank you for being such an inspiration and thank you for the opportunity to watch in awe.
With love and admiration,
You are my mentor, teacher, advocate and leader. My career and life would not be the same without you.
We honor and salute your extraordinary career of visionary leadership, innovative scholarship and exceptional achievements.
Your invincible spirit, impeccable instincts, and transformational vision for nursing education, research and practice have placed you at the pinnacle of universally respected and beloved Legends of Nursing.
Your grace, kindness and generosity have no bounds. We are ever grateful for your enthusiastic support, encouragement and appreciation for the basic sciences faculty in our School of Nursing. It has been a distinct privilege and true joy to have worked under your guidance and leadership.
With sincere gratitude and warmest wishes,
–Zee and Tom
When I was Chairman of the Trustees and our President Sheldon Hackney resigned to take a position in Washington I needed to appoint a temporary President. There was never a doubt in my mind the strongest Dean was Claire. She was a no nonsense tell it like it was. She did a terrific job of cleaning up a lot of messes. If she had been younger at the time she might very well have been the permanent President. She really was the first female President in the Ivies. I got a little chuckle of thinking of the medical center and all those doctors reporting to a nurse! She is a great lady and good friend. Sally joins me in sending all our best.
–Alvin V. Shoemaker
My first memory of Claire Fagin was when, as a MSN student, we had the honor of meeting with her as our new dean. She shared her vision for what Penn Nursing could be. It was inspiring and very different from where we were as a school. I recall that a student asked her why we no longer made the Penn nursing cap available to students and what would this student do if she were to take a job in a facility where they mandated wearing a cap. This was 1977. Claire’s response set the stage as the captain of the rocket ship that would propel us into the new and exciting age. With full dignity and forcefulness, she said “No Penn grad would take a job in a facility where she had to wear a cap.” I nearly did a cartwheel with joy. We were off and running toward greatness. Thank you Claire - vision, courage and appropriate irreverence!
“Work the crowd, you can talk with your friends later” as she squeezed our arms when we were attending a social event on behalf of the school
“Don’t wait for someone to tap you on the shoulder. If you want something, go make it happen.” Sage advice (that I continue to use) when I asked her how people got into the Academy.
“Tears behind the eyes,” on how she kept her composure in difficult meetings when she would be challenged by uncivil behavior on the part of peers from other parts of the University.
“Hasn’t nursing been good to us!” Her joy in letting us know our annual salary increase, back when the faculty was small enough that she met with us individually to do our annual appraisal; and in exulting over our shared profession.
Lovingly, Jane Barnsteiner
You became my muse when I was your student in the doctoral leadership course. I still quote your brilliant insights from that course to my students, to my family, to whomever I can, whenever I can. You have been a guiding light to generations of nurses and I am so fortunate to have known you as a teacher, a Dean, a President and a dear friend. We celebrate you today and every day. For all you have done to inspire me, mentor me and warm my heart- I am eternally grateful.
On November 28, at the Penn Club in New York City, Penn Nursing helped Claire M. Fagin, Professor of Nursing and Dean Emerita, ring in her 90th birthday. A joyful celebration with family, friends, alumni, faculty, and many more, we wished Claire our very best for this next decade and shared our thanks for her incredible passion for nursing and Penn.