Born in Portland but raised in North Carolina during her formative years, Katie Harman Ebner’s MMC ’17 return to the Portland metropolitan area would pay dividends for her throughout her life. Katie graduated from Centennial HS in Gresham in 1999 then moved on to the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, to pursue a degree in biology, with a minor in music.
After dealing with the financial burdens of attending a private institution, Katie transferred to Portland State University (PSU) and focused on music and communications. With the need to garner more scholarship dollars to continue in school, she spoke with one of her former high school teachers about entering the Miss America pageant at the local level. The program is the world’s largest provider of scholarships for women. In the spring of 2000, she entered and won the Miss Multnomah County pageant and then went to the Miss Oregon pageant and finished as first runner up. She entered again in 2001 and was chosen as Miss Portland then won the Miss Oregon competition and moved on to the national Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, NJ. That year, she was chosen as Miss America 2002 and had to delay her PSU education to serve as an ambassador across the United States for breast cancer awareness and also to help citizens ease the pain of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, visiting 48 states and meeting hero first responders who risked everything to save people that fateful day. Additionally, she met President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush. In all, she logged over 20,000 miles a month as Miss America 2002, the first woman in Oregon history to hold the title.
After her one year of service, Katie re-entered PSU and was able to put to good use, the $75,000 she earned for winning the Miss America title. “I’m extremely proud of my year of service and though it was an emotional experience dealing with so much tragedy after 9-11, it was also uplifting to meet and personally thank so many people who saved lives that day,” she said.
Katie graduated from PSU with a bachelor of arts degree in communication and music and married Tim Ebner, an F-15 fighter pilot whom she had met at the Oregon Air National Guard’s 142nd Fighter Wing in Portland during her year of service. Tim was transferred to Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, where they make their home and are raising their two children.
The fall of 2015, Katie entered SOU’s graduate school program for music and was enthralled at how she was welcomed into the tight-knit program. She loved the camaraderie and coursework where she became the first vocalist to pursue the master’s degree in the program’s history. “The music faculty provided an environment of support and academic rigor that I found challenging, particularly with long commutes three times per week after dropping my kids off at school in Klamath Falls, then driving through all kinds of weather conditions to make it to Ashland,” she said.
With great instruction from Music Department faculty like Paul French, Alexander Tutunov, Laurie Hunter, Rhett Bender and Christine Eggert, she dove into the friendly and collaborative aspect of the program, even working with Percussion Director Terry Longshore. She was also able to form enriching bonds with fellow graduate students Chellsea Villenueva, Kevin Yonker and Jared Brown. “What a rich experience I had in the program being able to collaborate outside of the vocalist genre, where I grew as a musician and as a person,” she added. She graduated in June of 2017, earning her master’s in music and became a proud alumna that day at Raider Stadium.
In 2020, Katie partnered with Christine Eggert and launched The Virtuosa Society, with the mission to elevate and recognize the history of female composers. “Traditionally, females have been an underrepresented group in classical composition. So, it’s been very intriguing to help distinguish and honor women through historical research and performance. I consider it to be like a music archeological dig,” she explained. Service to others runs in the blood of some people. It certainly does for Katie!
Learn more: The Virtuosa Society