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Frances Tappan, 1915-1999
September 20, 1999
Frances Tappan, former associate dean of the School of Allied Health who was instrumental in establishing the University's physical therapy program, died August 19 at the age of 84. A memorial service will be held for her at the Storrs Congregational Church on September 25 at 2 p.m., followed by a reception sponsored by the School of Allied Health.
She joined the UConn faculty in 1950 as assistant professor. At the time, the profession was moving away from schools of physical therapy associated with hospitals toward baccalaureate programs in colleges and universities. Tappan developed the first curriculum in physical therapy at the University and offered the first classes in physical therapy, to six students, in 1951. The program, the first accredited baccalureate program at a land grant institution, later grew to 60 students.
From 1959 until her retirement in 1975, Tappan served as associate dean of the School of Physical Therapy and, later, of the School of Allied Health Professions. She was promoted to full professor in 1963.
"Fran Tappan was a leading woman in a time when there were very few women in higher education," says Pamela Roberts, associate professor of physical therapy, who was a student of Tappan's in the 1960s.
"She placed a strong value on human caring, and believed that personal interaction and touching has a healing power," says Roberts. "She shared the spiritual side of medicine with her students at a time when it was not talked about within the medical community. She was far ahead of her time."
Tappan's early research focused on developing kitchens for people with disabilities. Her publications included several books on massage techniques, as well as a book titled Toward Understanding Administrators in the Medical Environment.
Born 1915 in Spokane, Wash., she grew up in California. After earning a bachelor's degree in physical education from Cortland Teachers College, N.Y., in 1942, she joined the U.S. Army, serving in hospitals in Utah and then in Manila until 1946. She earned a master's degree from Stanford University in 1948, and a doctorate in education from Columbia University while serving as head of UConn's physical therapy program. From 1948-1950, she was head of the department of physical therapy at Syracuse Memorial Hospital.
Active in many professional societies, Tappan served the American Physical Therapy Association in many capacities from 1944 on, including a 20-year stint on the board of directors of the Connecticut chapter of the Association.