SouthPark resident and longtime tennis coach Phyllis Pharr has been named this year's recipient of the Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award at Queens University.
Pharr plans to use half of the $15,000 award – the school's top teaching honor – to buy a device that will make the campus pool more accessible to people with disabilities.
Pharr said she was grateful such an award allows her to give back to the college in a significant way. She hopes to have the device in place before Christmas and, if there's any money left, hopes to use the remainder to support the university's dance program.
“I just can't tell you how much it means to have a family supporting Queens and the faculty like this,” said Pharr, an associate professor of physical education who has been at the university since 1964.
The Hunter-Hamilton award recognizes people who have uniquely inspired students at Queens and Davidson College. Nominations come from students, alumni and faculty. Recipients get $7,500 for themselves and $7,500 to donate to a college cause.
The Hunter-Hamilton family endows the award, which is named for Davidson College alumnus James Hamilton and wife Gray Hunter-Hamilton, a Queens alumnus.
Alumni, faculty and students who nominated Pharr cited her efforts advocating equality and respect for female athletes long before Title IX legislation. Many students said she inspired them to pursue teaching and coaching careers.
Title IX is the 1972 federal law that prohibited any educational program that receives federal money from discriminating on the basis of gender.
Pharr was the first Queens coach to take a team to the NCAA championships: the 1995 women's tennis team.
As part of the award citation, one student was quoted as saying, “She knew when I needed a kick in the butt or a hug – and for that I'm forever thankful!”
Queens physical education instructor Chrys Baker said Pharr's dedication to women's athletics has commanded the respect of peers and students. In addition, she said, Pharr's knowledge of tennis has had a lasting impact on area residents.
“If she wasn't here, I don't think the women that graduate would be as strong as they are,” said Baker, who has been mentored by Pharr for 22 years.
Pharr said her passion for women's athletics came from growing up at a time when men's high school teams had more funding and variety.
“Women had organized things, but they weren't season-long and it was generally never funded the way men's sports was funded,” she said. “I always wanted to learn to play tennis, but I was in college before that happened.”