M. Wilma Harris was born in 1944 in Paulsboro, New Jersey. She attended Douglass College and graduated with a history degree in the Class of 1966. She went on to earn her master's degree in Governmental Administration from the University of Pennsylvania. Harris worked at Douglass College as Counselor-in-Residence, Assistant Dean of Students and Associate Dean of Students. In 1977, Harris began working at Prudential and spent the rest of her career there, eventually becoming Vice President of Human Resources. Harris has an honorary doctorate from St. Peter's College.