Kristine T. Utterback, 71, of Laramie passed away on Monday, April 5, 2021, at the Hospice of Laramie. She was born on February 18, 1950 in Toledo, Ohio to Rufus and Margie (Marlow) Utterback. Kris grew up in Whitehouse Ohio, in a family that highly valued their faith, education, and community service. From these roots, Kris brought joy and light to all she encountered, and her unwavering commitments to education, service, music, and her faith made her communities better.
Kris was a steadfast, lifelong music maker. She grew up singing with her family at home, in school and church choirs, and in Girl Scouts. She played the flute and viola in school bands and orchestra, and was a founding member of the Anthony Wayne Choral Society. She couldn’t imagine life without music constantly running through her mind. She said if she ever lost her hearing that she would be able to play in her mind’s ear the repertoire she knew by heart for a good long while. She appreciated the influence and strong guidance of the musicians in her life who opened doors to the “vastness of musical worlds out there.” Music was her on-ramp to higher education and, through touring choirs and orchestras, spurred a lifelong love of travel as well.
For many years, Kris gifted her time and talent to the St. Matthew’s Cathedral Choir and the Laramie Civic Chorus. Singing sacred music throughout her life enriched her connection to Spirit, and together with her 40-year practice of centering prayer was the primary source of her grounding. Her contemplative practice and the sacred space it created for Kris was both present and active in her academic life and work as well, enabling her to better experience and express her heart for service and the people whose lives she touched.
As a first-generation college student, Kris obtained a Bachelor of Music in Viola Performance, a Master of Music in Music History, a Master of Arts in History, as well as a PhD in Medieval Studies. During her 32-year tenure as an Associate Professor at the University of Wyoming, she served as chair of both the History Department, and the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department. She viewed her students as partners in learning and pioneered non-traditional methods in her teaching, which gave rise to her earning the Extraordinary Merit in Teaching in the College of Arts and Sciences Award twice.
In all areas of her life, Kris continually sought to expand her view of the world. She valued travel as a transformative experience for broadening the scope of her life and her appreciation of the world. She extended these values through her teaching by traveling with her students around the world. Kris served as a Fulbright Scholar in Hong Kong and studied, taught, consulted, and presented at conferences around the world including in England, France, Spain, Kenya, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China, and India.
Kris was a long-term volunteer at the Benedictine Abbey of Walburga in Colorado, and one of the first volunteers to serve at the Hospice of Laramie when it opened. She regularly supported Wyoming Public Media, the Downtown Clinic of Laramie, and the Laramie Animal Welfare Society. Kris deeply believed in the value of sacred music and its importance to the community. She spent her final months arranging to strengthen and expand music programs in and beyond St. Matthew’s Cathedral Parish by establishing the K. T. Utterback Gift of Sacred Music Endowment.
Kris was preceded in death by her husband, Todd Sermon, her parents, Rufus and Margie Utterback, and her siblings, Paul Utterback and Margene Whittenburg.
She is survived by her step-daughter, Amanda Sermon of Salt Lake City, Utah; her niece, Amy Whittenburg of Kirkland, Washington; her nephews, Phillip Utterback of Gaithersburg, Maryland and Joshua Utterback of Potomac Falls, Virginia; and her Aunt, Betty Marlow Miller of Pemberville, Ohio.
Funeral services will be held at 2:00 p.m. Thursday, June 3, 2021 at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Cathedral in Laramie, Wyoming the Very Rev. Brian K. Gross presiding. Inurnment will follow at St. Matthew’s Columbarium.
In the interest of public health, and to follow CDC guidelines, the service will also be available to stream safely online through the church’s website at www.stmatthewscathedrallaramie.com
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations to the K. T. Utterback Gift of Sacred Music Endowment may be sent to St. Matthew’s Cathedral. Donations may also be sent to Wyoming Public Media, the Downtown Clinic of Laramie, or the Laramie Animal Welfare Society.