The Challenge and Promise of Catholic Higher Education: The Lay President and Catholic Identity
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Educational Policy and Leadership
Twenty years after Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the papal proclamation that defined the relationship between the Catholic Church and Catholic institutions of higher education, these institutions continue to seek ways to strengthen their Catholic identities. As they do so they are faced with a decline number of religiously vowed men and women available to lead them. An institution's history is often linked to the mission of its founding congregation. As members of the congregation become less actively involved, the connection of the institution's mission to the founding congregation and their particular charism is likely less visbily evident. Additionally, the role of the American university president today is viewed by many to be an almost impossible job. As members of the laity are increasingly assuming the leadership of these institutions, it is important to presidents, their institutions, boards and founding congregations to have a deeper understanding of how the lay president understand the role of supporting and advancing the Catholic mission and how the lay president is prepared to do so.
This dissertation provides a broad review of the history of the mission of Catholic institutions of higher education and of the changing role of the American college president, particularly presidents of Catholic institutions. An in depth qualitative study of one current lay president with ten years of service utilizing interviews, observations and artifact/document reviews was conducted. Three major themes emerged from the data: the significance of the president's own Catholic identity, his vocation as a Catholic educator, and the intentionality of his leadership for mission specifically. The president's leadership style is also discussed in relationship to the success of the institution he leads and in context with the leadership styles described in Catholic Higher Education: A Culture in Crisis (Morey and Piderit), 2006).
This dissertation is available only to users within the Marquette IP range until January 2014.