Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career and Higher Education

Major Professor

Wilma J. Henry, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Donald A. Dellow, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Edward C. Fletcher, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jerry W. Koehler, Ph.D.


administration, leadership competencies, management, SDA, succession, succession planning


This qualitative research explored the perceptions of presidential leadership in Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) higher education in North America. The perceptions included the identification of leadership competencies and leadership styles that promote the mission of the SDA church in higher education. This research also identified the personal and professional experiences of SDA college and university presidents that contributed to their successful accession to the presidency. The presidents came from the twelve non-medical SDA colleges and universities in the continental United States and Canada. The three themes that emerged relevant to the perceptions of presidential leadership were (1) succession planning, (2) increased professionalization of the presidency, and (3) increased presidential tenure. One theme emerged relevant to the personal experiences that contributed to the successful accession to the presidency and was classified as significant impact of spousal and familial support on career trajectory. One theme also emerged relevant to the professional experiences that contributed to the successful accession to the presidency and was classified as progressively more challenging job experiences. Implications for practice suggest that SDA institutions, their associated governing boards, and church policymakers create and execute strategies to address the lack of qualified presidential aspirants in the pipeline. Recent graduates of doctoral education should express their eventual interest in the presidency and seek out varied leadership experiences early on in their careers. Church officials should consider formal implementation of a leadership track and consider succession planning within the SDA system.