The Pharr Legacy: Growth and Renewal

Pharr’s accomplishments reflect the values of Mount Mary: Competence, Community, Compassion and Commitment

Since Christine Pharr assumed the role of president of Mount Mary in 2017, she has “helped to define the Mount Mary of the present and the future,” said Board of Trustee Chair Stephanie Russell. 

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,” said Pharr, who publicly announced in September her plans to retire effective June 30, 2022.

“Mount Mary educates committed change-makers and barrier-breakers, and Dr. Pharr has truly been a champion of change and growth.

“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.”  

Stephanie Russell
Chair, Mount Mary Board of Trustees

The 2022 Best Colleges Report by U.S. News and World Report gave Mount Mary top honors among all regional universities in the Midwest for social mobility, which measures the success rate of graduating Pell students based upon six-year graduation rates.

Under Pharr’s stewardship, Mount Mary moved up more than 20 spots to 51st in the best-of rankings of regional universities, and was recognized for having the greatest economic and ethnic diversity in the Midwest. In 2020, Mount Mary became one of only two Hispanic Serving Institutions in Wisconsin.

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 over 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).

In addition to Trinity Woods and the Health Sciences Center, on-campus construction projects have included a virtual reality lab, immersive classrooms and extensive campus renovations. An interfaith space, Place of Peace, and a Muslim prayer room were created to accommodate the faith practices of all students.

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.

In summer 2021, the University established the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and named the University’s first vice president for DEI.

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.