John Selmon

Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

James Barott, PhD

Committee Member

Jaclynn Tracy, PhD

Committee Member

Eboni M. Zamani-Gallaher, PhD


Private independent nonprofit colleges and universities serve millions of students annually, yet very little is written about this group. Most of the literature and research concern large public institutions of higher learning. Davenport College, a private independent nonprofit college system in Michigan and northern Indiana, serving 15,000 students, was the focus of the case study that offers a historical view of how the college evolved and changed over the institution’s 134-year history. The study highlights the influence of the five leaders and significant environmental events that that led to change and persistence in Davenport College from its inception on January 25, 1866, to May 18, 2000. Further, an examination of the interactions between the influences of the environment at the institutional level, governance activities at the managerial level, and core activities at the technical level contributes to development of a system of explanation for organizational change at Davenport College.

Sources of primary and secondary data included personal interviews, historical documents, newspaper accounts, financial statements, annual reports, accreditation reports, and board reports, as well as college catalogs, brochures, and minutes of academic and executive leadership meetings. Many documents were collected that provided national, state, and local environmental data about economics, education, employment and training needs, and policies and statutes relevant to the college.

From the industrial revolution to the information age, through wars and depression, government support and regulation, technical advances and competition, Davenport leaders maintained the institution’s mission and identity while adapting to a changing environment.