Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Higher Education Administration

Major Professor

E. Grady Bogue

Committee Members

Norma T. Mertz, Robert Rider, David Folz


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the factors and events associated with the derailment of presidents at public, Master’s level institutions. The research study was guided by three questions:

1) What factors are perceived to be associated with the derailment of public, Master’s level college presidents?

2) What events are perceived to be associated with the derailment of the president?

3) What relationship, if any, may be found between derailment factors emerging from previous Center for Creative Leadership research and factors emerging from this study?

Data were collected from 19 in-depth interviews of current presidents, board members, faculty members, and vice presidents who were familiar with the derailed president. Field notes, media accounts of the derailment, and board minutes also served as sources of data. Findings of this study supported three of the enduring themes of derailment stemming from the Center for Creative Leadership’s research. Those include: failure to build and lead a team, problems with interpersonal relationships, and failure to understand and value the institutional culture (inability to change or adapt during a transition). Three unique factors emerged: failure to communicate effectively, the inability to work with key constituencies, and ethical failures. These findings suggest that college presidents must take time to understand and value the mission of the institution that they serve, as well as work hard to maintain effective communication with key constituency groups so if problems arise he or she will have social capital to draw on and help them avoid derailment. Implications for practice and recommendations for future research are discussed.

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