Teachers College alum Claire Fagin (M.A. ’51), a key leader in contemporary nursing and education, died on Jan. 16 at the age of 97. Fagin, a consistent friend to the College throughout her life, dedicated her life to the betterment of the nursing profession through her research and leadership. 

Fagin served as the dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing for 15 years, and became one of the first women to lead an Ivy League university when she served as interim president of Penn in 1993 to 1994. She first gained prominence in the 1960s for her research on the hospital practice of limiting visitation, which is widely credited as encouraging health leaders to lift strict rules that prevented parents from visiting their hospitalized children. Throughout her life, Fagin’s research and practice uniquely positioned nurses as key to the patient experience, a now widely acknowledged truth. 

“You have to be knowledgeable about science. You have to be knowledgeable about humanity. You have to be knowledgeable about patient care,” Fagin once reflected. “You have to be able to put it together, and you have to know it so well [that] you have to have comfort putting it together with the patient. Your focus is on the patient.” 

The daughter of Jewish immigrants, Fagin grew up in the Bronx and later began her career as a clinical instructor at New York’s Bellevue Hospital, where she met a Teachers College student whose knowledge and disposition inspired Fagin’s next steps. After earning a master’s in psychiatric nursing from TC, Fagin went on to work at the National Institute of Health, the Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., and later New York University, where she would help build a psychiatric nursing program and earn her doctorate. 

Later in her career, Fagin shifted her attention towards broader issues related to nurse preparation and public health. She advocated for reforms in nursing education and hospital staffing requirements. At the time of her death, Fagin was still collaborating on scholarship and practice with her close colleague Linda H. Aiken, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. 

Fagin is predeceased by her husband Samuel L. Fagin and her son Joshua. She is survived by her son, Charles.