Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

James Barott, PhD, Chair

Committee Member

David Anderson, PhD

Committee Member

Elizabeth Broughton, PhD


This longitudinal case study examined the origins, growth, and development of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The purpose of this study was to understand how the Catholic schools evolved over time.

Four eras between 1833 and 2005 were investigated and described. Each era corresponds with changes to the physical size of the Diocese of Grand Rapids. These periods also correspond to sociological events that were also occurring. Data on Catholic schools were collected for each era. A conceptual framework was applied that considered the institutional environment in which the schools were founded and the task environment that affected how the schools functioned within the institutional environment in each era. The institutional environment reflects the dominant culture and gives the organization legitimacy or the right to exist. The institutional environment consists of elements called pillars, which describe the regulations, norms, values, language, and symbols, as well as affective elements, of the dominant culture. The Catholic school organization consists of three levels of organizational responsibility: institutional (leadership), management, and the technical core.

The interpretive approach was followed to examine organizational core values. Data collected included various historical documents. Findings indicated that given a hostile environment, Catholic schools were organized in order to ensure that Catholic children would be instructed in their Catholic faith. As Catholic immigrants from Europe came to Michigan, Catholic schools persisted because their emphasis became to promote and protect the ethnic cultures of those immigrants. As immigration was curtailed in the early 20th century, Catholic schools became a means to promote and protect a Catholic culture that emerged in the United States and remained strong until the 1960s. As Catholics became assimilated into the dominant culture, the need for separate schools that promoted a separate culture for Catholics lessened. The study concluded that Catholic schools continue to evolve because they provide the communities in which they are found with something those communities need. The community in return provides the schools with the resources they need to survive. It shows that Catholic schools, as an organization, are both market-driven and value-driven.

Implications for future research include investigating resource-based decision-making on organizational identity, successful leadership in relationship to organizational values and resource dependencies, and the impact of environmental influences on the organizational effectiveness of Catholic schools.


Additional committee member: John Palladino, PhD