Christine Pharr, Ph.D., president of Mount Mary University, has announced she plans to retire on June 30, at the end of the current academic year. The university hopes to have a successor in place by July 1.
Pharr shared this news with the campus community during an all-campus informational session, saying the timing was right to make the transition, at the end of her five-year contract. Pharr, who began in July 2017, is Mount Mary’s 12th president.
“I am choosing to retire so I can be closer to family,” she said. “This is not a decision that I take lightly because of my deep love for Mount Mary and how much I have enjoyed serving as president.”
This fall, the university experienced record-breaking new student enrollment, and Trinity Woods, Mount Mary’s three-way partnership with the School Sisters of Notre Dame and Milwaukee Catholic Home, is set to open in late 2021.
“Over the past four years, we have instituted a multitude of new programs and initiatives, which led to a record number of new students for fall 2021. As we continue our work in the coming year and as Trinity Woods opens, I am confident that I will leave Mount Mary in an excellent position with a bright future.”
Mount Mary has experienced significant programmatic growth, such as the Compass Year program for undecided students. This first-year program designed to help students explore career paths and identify a major has grown more than 300 percent since it began three years ago. Mount Mary’s four-year bachelor of science in nursing program began this fall after an extensive, $2.5 million construction of a Health Sciences Center. Expanded graduate offerings include a Ph.D. in counseling and a doctorate in occupational therapy, and extensive revisions to existing programs in dietetics and business (MBA).
Pharr led Mount Mary through an extensive strategic planning process, leading to “Living, Learning and Working in a Thriving Community,” a multifaceted plan that identified visionary goals in five planning areas through 2025.
A tireless fundraiser deeply sensitive to the needs of Mount Mary students, Pharr led efforts to raise $2 million for Trinity Woods, established a $100,000 endowment for food resources and increased the President’s Emergency Fund to $100,000.
The university’s board of trustees has engaged a search firm to begin the process of selecting a new president, said Trustee Chair Stephanie Russell. The search firm and timeline will be announced in the coming weeks. Updates and a portal for input will be available on the presidential search web page at www.mtmary.edu/presidentialsearch.
“Mount Mary educates committed change-makers and barrier-breakers, and Dr. Pharr has truly been a champion of change and growth,” Russell said. “Mount Mary’s strategic plan, strong internal leadership and capable faculty and staff will continue to move Mount Mary purposefully and confidently into the future.”
Pharr has assumed multiple leadership positions within the local and state higher education communities. She currently co-chairs a committee for the Higher Education Regional Alliance (HERA), and serves as vice chair of the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (WAICU). She is also a member of the Milwaukee downtown Rotary, TEMPO and Milwaukee Women, Inc. In August, she was recognized by the Biz Times as a Notable Woman in Education for 2021.
A longtime advocate for women’s leadership, particularly in the sciences, Pharr served as vice president for alumnae and donor relations at the College of St. Mary, a Catholic women’s institution in Omaha, Nebraska, and as the college’s vice president of academic affairs, developing new undergraduate and graduate programs in business, science, nursing, physician assistant and education. She previously served as academic dean and professor of chemistry at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho.