Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


Educational Leadership and Policies


Educational Administration

First Advisor

Katherine Chaddock


The Great Books hold a special place in scholarly and academic lore in America. Study of the Great Books and liberal education in general were the foundation of a college education since the colonial times, but yielded to electives and other academic trends during the early portion of the twentieth century. By the 1930s, several men sought to return this pedagogy to the academy, and as a result of some of these efforts, St. John's College was transformed in 1937 into the first college to use the Great Books curriculum exclusively as the vessel for a liberal education.

Several other American Great Books colleges followed, including Shimer College, Monteith College, Thomas Aquinas College, Gutenberg College and Rose Hill College. However, these colleges have had disparate degrees of success. The purpose of this study was two-fold. First, to describe the campus constituencies and other salient aspects of the Great Books colleges, including Great Books pedagogies, boards of trustees, presidents, administrations, faculties, students, and alumni. Second, the nature of these constituencies and variances therein were used to determine the reasons for success, struggle, or failure of each college. For the most part, the pedagogy and lists of Great Books were similar at all of the Great Books colleges. Success, struggle or failure of these institutions is a function of the effectiveness of campus constituencies and the relative balances or imbalances between them.

St. John's College and Thomas Aquinas College have been successful because, over time, all of their campus constituencies have been strong and effective, but intertwined and balanced, culminating in a healthy financial model. Thus, they have created a culture of success. Shimer College and Gutenberg College have perpetually struggled due to significant imbalances between various campus constituencies that have led to recurring crises. These two colleges have survived due to a sacrificial, communard mentality in times of financial hardship. They have adopted a culture of struggle. Monteith College and Rose Hill College failed. These two colleges experienced substantive imbalances in their campus constituencies, but ultimately accepted liquidation when those imbalances were financially untenable. They created cultures that were doomed to failure. Therefore, America's Great Books colleges help elucidate the role of campus culture in institutional success.


© 2009, Kent Thomas Cubbage