Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein-Palmer

Second Advisor

Dr. Donna Talbot


Crisis, president, leadership, Christian, stability, effectiveness


Despite healthy growth in past decades, in a time of national and global economic instability small, private Christian colleges now find themselves in a precarious position. Leading effectively in such colleges and universities in a time of external and/or internal crisis is a great challenge.

This research is about a small, Christian college with documented evidence of having survived two significant enrollment and financial crises (early 1990s and 2008-09), and is now stable, all under the leadership of a president who served during the 19 year time period of crisis and stability. The purpose of this study is to investigate how this president, through his leadership attributes, practices, and achievements, led the college from crisis to stability.

Participants in this study were administrators, faculty, and staff employed by Grace College and Seminary and those who serve (or have served) as volunteers on the Board of Trustees during the period of 1995 through 2012.

A survey was created identifying seven categories from the literature of effective presidential leadership in higher education. In each of these areas there are eight statements, scored using a Likert scale. Additionally, there are two open-ended statements regarding the president's leadership during the two times of crisis. Responses from 168 stakeholders were received, a 65.4% response rate. Five interviews, one from each stakeholder group and the president were also conducted. Another data source was the president's three-year goals and self-evaluations.

Data revealed that being Relationally Strong and a Good Fit as the top categories of effectiveness for this president. Being a Developer of a New Culture was the overall lowest leadership category, involving both low mean scores and low open-ended responses, while being a Team Builder had moderate mean scores, but the highest number of negative comments.

Overall conclusions drawn, which add to the literature, are this president: 1) functioned as an adaptive leader, 2) built trust through his integrity and relationships, and 3) used times of crisis to institute change and innovation.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access