Messages to Claire
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.
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.
To work with Claire Fagin during her deanship was like experiencing a Mac and Windows running simultaneously. She invented multi-tasking before anyone thought to coin the term. She created such an infectious, vibrant and challenging atmosphere as well as creating so many advocates for nursing throughout the University and well beyond.
The pioneering spirit of the Fagin years at Penn Nursing was so infectious and so special.
Celebrating my endowed van Ameringen Chair event with my mentor and friend, Claire.
I could not have received this honor without you. Thanks for all you have done for me.
Love ya, Loretta
Happy 90th Birthday! On a birthday several decades ago, when you were Dean of Penn Nursing, you wanted a second hole in your ear adding a hole for another pierced earring, do you remember? You wanted it before Sam told you not to get it!
I came to your office and you asked me where my ear piercing gun was, you thought all nurse practitioners had them. Instead, I had a needle, alcohol, and an apple, all we needed was an ice cube. You asked, “What do you think you are going to do with that?” I described the procedure and you had second thoughts. I gently suggested that you go to the Piercing Pagoda at the King of Prussia Mall. You were not sure you had time before Sam could stop you!
Just think how way ahead of your time you were with all the multiple piercings people wear today! As they say, you were a real trendsetter, way before your time.
All the best at 90 years young, and much love,
Beth Ann Swan
MSN 1983 and PhD 1996
I love this picture of Claire and Ellen Fuller. This picture was taken around 1984. Their partnership helped launch our school from a school of nursing with a focus on education and practice to one of the finest schools of nursing dedicated to advancing nursing science. Claire’s vision was the driving force in shaping the mission–it was not an easy task. Under her guiding hand we were able to form partnerships with our colleagues in the school of medicine. In those early days of the Robert Wood Johnson Nurse Scholars program (Claire was one of the influential members of the program) the school of nursing faculty were finally recognized as independent researchers and full partners in the research enterprise at the University of Pennsylvania. I am most appreciative of Claire’s mentorship and friendship.
Claire, receiving the Claire M. Fagin Distinguished Researcher Award was not only an honor but also an opportunity for me to reflect on my research but also how the science of family caregiving evolved. In that process I discovered more about what I already knew— that you made an incredible contribution to that science and to the care of children and their families.
In honor of that contribution I want to share the poem I wrote to close my lecture.
From our roots we grow
Haphazard it seems at times but connected nonetheless
By everyday experiences and expectations
Some of us more privileged than others
Bound to our sense that unless others are strong we are not
Strengthening and building on what we have
To live the life that we all can
Janet A. Deatrick
Dear Dr. Fagin,
Although we have never been formally introduced, I wanted to wish you a very happy birthday!! What a thrill for me to work in the nursing school and to learn about all that you have done to make our school what it is today. It’s a thrill to have the chance to listen to you speak whenever you come to town for the Awards Program. I look forward to your talks every year because I know you will find a way to deliver a heartfelt, funny and relevant take on the subject at hand. I also wanted you to know how much I love being a part of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research, a Center you championed from its inception and continue to do so right up to the present. Thank you so much!
All the best,
Claire, I remember so well coming to see you as a young faculty member seeking an appointment in the School of Nursing when you were the Dean. Since I am not a nurse by training, I was afraid you would tell me to look elsewhere. Instead you immediately embraced the idea of having an inter-professional colleague in the form of me, an epidemiologist. I will be forever grateful for your enthusiastic welcome and support.
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.
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,
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!
I don’t have one particular story to share, but instead I have two decades of memorable experiences accumulated from each time I am with you. I cherish our interactions because every time I learn from you, laugh with you, plan with you, and gain confidence and motivation from you. For that I am grateful and appreciate all the great things you have done for nursing and for me personally. Best wishes and congratulations on your milestones with many more to come.
I first met Claire in 1973 when I began teaching nursing at Lehman College, a Bronx division of CUNY. I have been her devoted fan ever since. I followed her to Penn in 1981 & stayed in touch when I moved my teaching life to NYU in 1995. We have traveled together, partied together, laughed & cried together. She has been the steadfast rock in my professional life & a wonderful fun friend in my personal life. Her judgement & advice have been rock solid and her sense of humor the best.
My dear Claire, do you remember being in New Orleans at an NLN meeting in the ’70s or ’80s, when we kept telling each booth: “Have curriculum, will travel!” What fun it was to create & live that curriculum! You are a continuing joy in my life. Hank & I send love to you & Sam on this wonderful occasion.
All of these memory statements probably begin with…”there can be no one best memory,” for knowing Claire is an adventure with endless moments where you stop in wonder at the person across the desk, classroom, dinner table, living room. Claire is like no one else. I met Claire in 1992 when I joined the Penn School of Nursing to be in charge of alumni and development. In fact, I met her before I moved to Philadelphia and began work. I can remember exactly where I was standing, what time of day it was and the sun streaming into my living room in Milwaukee, Wisconsin when I picked up the phone and Claire – who I had never met before and had no warning would call me – was on the phone. She wanted to find out who I was and fill me in on all that awaited me – and us – in fundraising for the best nursing school in the world. I can’t remember all of the details of our conversation, but I do remember that when the call was over I was completely engaged and enthralled what lay ahead for me at Penn.
I’ve always described Claire as someone who could move in a nanosecond between making the most astute and insightful comment on how to solve a healthcare problem and noticing that you had done something different with your hair. Her incredible attention to you as a person at the very same time she was moving healthcare forward resulted in an extraordinary blend of professional excellence and deeply personal commitment to support and celebrate all who work to make the world a better place.
To Claire, quintessential leader, role model, wise sage… I remember from the late 1980s those days of many struggles to bring The CARE Program to life…One special memory sticks out: Being in your Office when you shared a memo you had just received from a department chair from ‘across the street.’ Here are a couple of prescient quotes:
“Within the context of a University program it seems that the service and clinical care aspects of this endeavor would be under the auspices of the Medical Center, while the research and educational activities might be more appropriately directed by the School of Nursing… No clinical program should be operated by nurses; this is tantamount to practicing medicine without a license.”
Your response was ‘pure Claire’!! Apoplectic, yet determined to make this happen…CARE’s gestational period took a little longer than had been hoped, but we need never have feared…With your clear vision about the place of nursing in the academy, your stellar leadership and perseverance, it slowly advanced.… Then, as Acting President of the University, you were front and Center for the monumental Ribbon Cutting Ceremony when The CARE Program – the School’s first major owned and operated academic practice – was born!!!
Thank you again for teaching us so many important lessons!!!
Lots of Love,
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
This is a photo taken from an NBC TV National Show on the Nursing Shortage in 1981. The show won an Emmy. Claire represented the school and I represented the hospital - we were without a director of nursing at the time. I have so many memories of these last exciting days as we struggled to define academic nursing. Claire was THE leader of these important milestones and will always remain my mentor, colleague and friend.
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,
I send warmest wishes and lots of love to you on your special day. I’m always so grateful that you served as Dean to my school, and as Interim President of my University. I am also aware that it was you who arranged for me to receive an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. As always, you pressed forward to have nurses recognized and acknowledged. That doctorate of many, is most special to me. Thank you, thank you.
With gratitude and love,
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
Thank you for your mentorship and wise counsel over many years. I am at Penn because of you. You were right on this as always as I’ve loved every minute at Penn. We have experienced many career highs together and visited wonderful places together from Bellagio to Santiago to St. Petersburg and including a wonderful time in San Juan last year with Sam and Mary. Looking forward to continuing our adventures.
With much admiration and love,
Claire was Dean of the School of Nursing when I entered the PhD program. She taught a first semester required Leadership course. I had just finished a three-year term on the Board of Directors of a national professional association and said to myself (internally) - why do I need to take this leadership course. From the first moment that Claire walked into the class - my question was answered. Claire exudes leadership in a way that no one I had ever come in contact with. Just being in her presence was a master class in itself. Claire is a gift to me, to the School, and to our profession.
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
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
“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 are my mentor, teacher, advocate and leader. My career and life would not be the same without you.
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.
Dean Fagin has a long history of supporting faculty and fostering their productive careers. I came to a relationship with Claire late in my career as I received the professorship at Penn in 2006. I believe I was the first Fagin awardee who was not one of “Claire’s faculty” in that I did not serve Penn until after her retirement. Initially she and I were both uneasy about this–we had to break new ground. But immediately after the announcement of the award in 2008, I began receiving emails from her. Her warmth, support, and enthusiasm surrounded me, and continues to this day. With so many people to mentor, she reached out yet again to welcome me into her scholarly family. I will always remember that gesture with great respect and affection, and am so honored to recognize her leadership and support to all of us in nursing.
–Marilyn “Lynn” Sommers
Claire M. Fagin was a dean extraordinaire! I cannot imagine working with a more marvelous leader of an academic unit, a more supportive administrator of faculty, staff, and students, or a wiser person than Claire.
It was an honor to have been recruited to Penn by Claire in 1978 and to work with her throughout her tenure as dean, to be at Penn when she became our Interim President, and to work her again when she returned to the School of Nursing as our senior faculty member.
I learned so much about nursing education and administration of nursing education from Claire. I became a much better faculty member than I could have ever anticipated because of Claire.
I join all of our colleagues in thanking Claire billions and billions of times over, and in wishing her great continued success in all she does.
Claire was “my Dean,” as I was making the transition from MSN to doctoral levels. I initially chose another school (that also chose me). When Claire asked me why, & also, to return to Penn, she said, “Sue, when you are AT the best, you STAY at the BEST!” I am so very grateful for this advice and endorsement so many years later. It is an honor and a pleasure to have had the opportunity to thank her for this and so many other things that she gave us all. I try to emulate her experience & knowledge in every way, as well as the way that she so unabashedly gave encouragement & support to her students. Love to you, Claire!
I obtained my BSN at Penn and graduated in the class of 1991 (I believe we were the last undergraduate class to have Claire as our Dean for 4 years). There was a tradition that the senior class would sit down with Dean Fagin before graduation and have an informal question and answer session with her. Someone from our class asked her how her career progressed from staff nurse to Dean of our School of Nursing, essentially asking “how did you get where you are today?”
Dean Fagin replied that she always looked for opportunities to learn and grow, and when something “fell into her lap” she would look upon it as an opportunity, grab it, and run with it. Her words stayed with me and have helped shaped my career. After several years of being a staff nurse I was offered an opportunity to work on a hospital wide initiative looking at bed management and flow from the OR to the ICUs to the floors. They wanted an ICU nurse with clinical experience to help shape what the process looked like and how to improve it. I actually thought back to Dean Fagin’s words, wondering if this was one of those “opportunities” she was describing. I agreed to step away from the bedside for several months to join the project. I learned much from that experience. Having a “birds eye” view of the health system and how we deliver care motivated me to return to graduate school in the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program (then called the “Tertiary Nurse Practitioner Program”). Upon graduation another opportunity fell into my lap, the chance to begin my career as a new NP in a new Trauma Center, thus carving out the NP role as the new trauma center was created. Again, my thoughts turned to Dean Fagin’s words and I accepted the challenge - and never looked back!!
I am so grateful I came to Penn for my undergraduate and graduate education and thankful for the multitude of mentors I’ve had through the years. I am especially grateful of our Senior Class session with Dean Fagin and can honestly say her words still echo in my ears!
–Heidi Nebelkopf Elgart
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,
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
You introduced me to interdisciplinary education and practice when I was a resident and you were Dean at Lehman – it changed my career! Our friendship and your wise counsel have also enriched my life in so many ways!! My deepest thanks, dear Claire.
–Jo Ivey Boufford
When I came to the University of Pennsylvania in 1968 Dean Dorothy Mereness was the dean and Dean Theresa Lynch was around as Dean Emeritus. When Martin Meyerson became President of Penn he questioned undergraduate professional education and the Penn School of Nursing was among the educational programs threatened. Dean Merreness deserves enormous credit for the persuasive and diplomatic manner in which she convinced the University administration about the many advantages of Penn utilizing its heath education resources to support a School of Nursing. Dean Mereness made it possible to recruit Dean Claire M. Fagin, and the presence and leadership of Dr. Fagin has been a blessing to the Penn School of Nursing, the valuable profession of nursing, and the University. It has been a privilege to be associated with Dr. Fagin during her entire 40 years at Penn and I hope and pray that her tenth decade will be healthy and blessed.
–Duncan W. Van Dusen
Thank you for all of your encouragement and for always taking the time for a brief hello and kind word for me.
I wish you much joy in reaching this wonderful milestone.
Melissa O’Connor, PhD’12
I have a very clear memory of Dr. Fagin, Dean Fagin at the time, speaking to our small group of PhD students in dissertation seminar. In answer to a question about policy change, Dean Fagin went to the chalk board and drew sketches explaining how she accomplished some major changes both inside and outside the University.
Those drawings changed my professional life. I was truly amazed by what a nurse can accomplish. She was talking about substantive changes in a way that made them seem possible and relatively simple. I decided following her lecture that after I finished my PhD, I too was going to be a change maker. I learned later via experience that Dean Fagin simplified the “how to”, I am very glad she did. She inspired me to try in earnest and I followed her lead since that important class many years ago.
–Kathleen Brown, PhD