Public board development and presidential leadership: A case study

Kathleen M Thompson, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation is a qualitative study using the case study method of inquiry designed to learn more about what factors contribute to developing and maintaining a public governing board. This is important because public board development has been understudied in the higher education literature. This study reviews the corporate and private board performance literature and also identifies strategies that may be specific to improving higher public board performance. The focus of this study is Longwood University, a comprehensive master's degree granting institution. The study follows the professional development of the board and the leadership efforts of the president over an eleven year period. Presidential leadership, board culture, board education, and the interpersonal relations between the president, board chairperson (rector) and individual board members is explored. The research questions framing this study include: What were the strategies used in developing the Longwood University Board of Visitors? In what way did Presidential leadership impact the board's evolution? How does the board maintain its values and focus on institutional mission given short term limits and frequent new appointees? What is the nature of the board's interaction with and relationship to faculty, staff and students? What factors do board members identify as contributing to believe contribute to their effectiveness? How does the board measure effectiveness? This study found that some factors which have been identified in the literature; identifying a vision and common purpose and effectively communicating were important to public board performance. More specifically, this research indicates that sustained presidential leadership, the engagement of outside consultants, relationship building with the governor and the governors office and identifying board members unique talents are key to higher public board performance.

Subject Area

Higher education

Recommended Citation

Thompson, Kathleen M, "Public board development and presidential leadership: A case study" (2008). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3311540.