McMurry's president to blaze a trail - first woman, first Catholic

ABILENE, Texas - It's a new day at McMurry University!

The 90-year-old Methodist academic institution just appointed the first woman to the post of president in Abilene history .  She's also a Catholic.  That marks another first, as she becomes the first in Abilene to be president and a member of a different denomination. She's also arguably the highest-ranking female in Abilene.

Dr. Sandra Harper, 60, was named to the post Monday. Harper has a long history with McMurry University, starting her professional career as an assistant professor of communication in 1985. While she worked there, she rose in the ranks to be named the university's first dean of the College of Sciences.    

"Being able to interact on an intellectual level with a lot of people from different faiths or people of no faith, I think that's exciting," Harper said. "I think that's part of the academic nature of an institution, especially a faith0-based institution where you can really talk about those differences on faith and be a better person for it."

Harper is not new to leadership. The Dallas native has been president at our Lady of the Lake College in Baton Rouge, La., for the past seven years.

Chuck Fallon, chairman of the Board of Trustees at McMurry, said it's Harper's down-to-earth attitude that helped lead her to being chosen.

"She is presidential and approachable," Fallon said. "She is somebody that doesn't wear that presidential title on her sleeve, but she's very engaging. I think she's a magnet to people."

"I think that marrying the strengths of McMurry to the needs of the greater community is going to be the key point that I want to push forward," Harper said.

Dr. Harper is set to take her post as President on Oct. 1.

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