Christine Pharr ’79

President elect mount mary university

Christine Pharr '76
president elect at Mount Mary university
degree: biology and chemistry

When Dr. Christine Pharr ’79 came to Mount Marty College (MMC) as an undergraduate student, she planned to pursue a career in nursing. Pharr grew up only two hours from MMC and was drawn to the college’s reputation for nursing and liberal arts. Not long after arriving in Yankton, however, she found herself drawn to a different area of study.

“Lucky for me, it turned out that sciences were my calling, and MMC had very strong programs in science, too,” says Pharr, who was involved in MMC’s Christian Life Committee, the chemistry club Lambda Delta Lambda, band, choir and language lab. She also served as a lab assistant and chemistry tutor.

“It seems like I was always busy and always having fun,” she says.

After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from MMC, Pharr went on to earn a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of South Dakota, followed by a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the University of Idaho. She served as academic dean of Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, followed by seven years as academic vice president at the College of Saint Mary (CSM) in Omaha, Nebraska. For the past year and a half, she’s served as vice president for alumni and donor relations at CSM. In July 2017, Pharr will take on her new role as the 12th president of Mount Mary University in Milwaukee.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know the students, faculty, staff, alumni and the School Sisters of Notre Dame (the founding order),” Pharr says of the new position, “and I’m looking forward to exploring Milwaukee and meeting the people who will be my new community.”

Positivity and encouragement are cornerstones of Pharr’s approach to her work, and she credits Sr. Laeticia Kilzer at MMC not only with impacting her desire to major in chemistry and biology but also serving as a valued role model.

“She really invested in students and helped them prepare not only for a career but also to be a great person,” Pharr says. “There were so many people like that at MMC: Doc Maldonado, Fr. Imming, Sr. Martin and many, many more.”

Those early lessons were pivotal to Pharr’s own career as an educator.

“Later in life when I was a faculty member, I knew that offering students opportunities was very empowering, and I helped many students find careers in science by encouragement and believing in them,” she adds.

Pharr and her husband, Steve, will soon relocated to Milwaukee and settle into the Mount Mary community. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, she’s positive about the road ahead.

“Perhaps most of all, I’m looking forward to leading a wonderful institution into the future with great people by my side,” she says.