Chair of one of Cabrini’s most popular majors. Award-winning educator. Campus leader. Former banker. Mother. Wife. On paper, it seems that there is nothing Mary Harris, Ph.D., Chair of Cabrini’s business department and Faculty Assembly, can’t do.
She admits that she never envisioned herself fulfilling so many roles. In high school, her ambition was to become a math teacher. As a student at Ursinus College, she majored in economics, and earned an M.B.A. in accounting from St. Joseph’s University. That led her to the corporate finance world, where she worked as a branch manager for a bank in Philadelphia, and later in positions as an accountant for a securities company and a pharmaceutical company.
She enjoyed training new employees, and developed that skill by teaching an advanced accounting class at Alvernia University in Reading, Pa. She fell in love with teaching. She enrolled in the doctorate program at Lehigh University while working at the bank during the day.
She joined Cabrini’s faculty in 2001 because the College’s mission resonated with her own values. In 2008, she was named Chair of the business department. Now, she considers teaching her “dream job.”
“Even if I have had a bad day,” Harris says, “once I start teaching, everything else disappears and I enjoy each moment.”
She is an authority on economics and public finance, and frequently speaks to the media on relevant issues. Over the past year, Harris was quoted in outlets such as CNBC and JobsintheMoney.com on topics as varied as the banking industry and potential consequences of Congress raising taxes.
Harris also is a leader on campus. During the 2006-07 academic year, she was elected Chair of the Faculty Assembly, where she chairs monthly meetings with full-time faculty. She sits on the Faculty Cabinet, meeting with committee chairs, the vice president for Academic Affairs, and President Marie George to discuss faculty concerns.
Harris expertly balances her professional and personal lives, too. On campus, she is known as Dr. Harris, the professor. At home in South Coventry, Pa., her focus shifts to family. She is simply known as Mom to son Drew, 15, daughters Shannon, 13, and Darcy, 11. Her husband, Stephen, owns S. A. Harris Construction, Inc., a company that specializes in high-end residential remodeling.
Her family has visited campus several times to see Harris recognized for her professional achievements. One notable occasion was when she received the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2006.
Likewise, students occasionally get a glimpse into Harris’s home life. Visiting Harris during office hours, they may comment on family photographs proudly displayed around her office.
“I think they find it interesting to see what my kids look like,” she says with a smile.
In nine years at Cabrini, the moment that stands out in her memory is a May 2006 trip with fellow faculty members to Mother Cabrini High School in New York.
“It made me realize how lucky I am to be faculty member at Cabrini,” Harris says. “It is a perfect fit for me.”