Mariclare Barrett passed away September 4th this morning in her home, surrounded by her loving family. She joined the university in 1999, and was an Assistant Professor in the Physician Assistant Department. She had been a PA since graduating from the Johns Hopkins University program in 1978.
Mariclare is one of the most popular names among Irish families, traditionally given to the first-born daughter. In Gaelic, it translates to “Child of our Longing,” and this was an appropriate name for her, as those of us who were fortunate enough to know Mariclare were always longing for more time together with her.
She was, first and foremost, the mother of six fine sons. She talked about them daily and found great joy in motherhood. She was also a compassionate primary care PA, and looked after her patients the way she did her own family. She enjoyed serving the underserved, whether it was delivering babies in the South Lawndale neighborhood or taking care of inmates at the Cook County Jail.
Her favorite course to teach was Psychosocial Aspects of Healthcare, where she never conformed to traditional teaching methods. She bravely announced to students that she had stage four breast cancer with metastasis to three organ systems, and that she was dying. They would learn to talk to her about this in order to be better prepared to talk to other patients like her about illness and mortality. Her students became better healthcare providers -- and better human beings -- because of their interactions with her.
Mariclare was an amazing storyteller in the best Irish tradition, and her stories were often so outrageous that you couldn’t believe that they were actually true. But they all were -- even the one about her turning a corner too sharply in a rental car and accidentally sideswiping Bill Clinton’s presidential limousine. Her experiences in life were remarkable because she took risks, and followed unlikely paths, and entertained improbable goals.
Mariclare was an important addition to the PA faculty, and served in many roles, including the Assistant Program Director. In 2014, she was the first PA inducted into Pi Alpha, the physician assistant honor society at Rosalind Franklin University. She served on many university committees and taught a variety of subjects. One of her most notable presentations was at the national PA conference, where she gave a workshop on “How to learn and remember every student’s name by the end of the first week of classes.” May her memory continue to inspire us all.