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Leading a Small College or University:
A Conversation that Never Ends


There are many helpful books on the college presidency but the perspective and touch of this new contribution is refreshingly human, candid, and accessible. By stressing the experiences of a small college president, this book covers the entire range of direct and immediate encounters with diverse constituencies that might escape the attention of those who lead larger institutions but this comprehensiveness provides a context useful for the presidency of any kind of college and university....In plain language it conveys a real sensitivity to the deep responsibilities and ambiguous controls of the presidency and how that sensitivity is the foundation of effective leadership.

~ David Ward
President, American Council on Education


This wise manual should be a handbook for all presidents, wannabe presidents, and trustees who hire presidents of small colleges. Its observations and advice spring from the real-life experience of a successful small college president who understands that the special challenges—and rewards—of such leadership differ from those of large university presidencies. It is unique in offering advice about the personal, as well as the professional, challenges presidents face and telling the reader how to recognize when outside expertise is needed and how to use it....

Moreover, system presidents and boards of trustees who are responsible for hiring college presidents need to appreciate the unique challenges of these positions and muse on how they can help these indispensable leaders succeed in the very special milieu of small colleges and communities.

~ Katharine Lyall
President Emeritus, University of Wisconsin System


This book belongs on the bookshelf or in the brief case of every small college president or trustee, or anyone who aspires to those posts. Writing in a learned, humane, and genial style, Peterson delivers sage advice based on his personal experience and wide reading on small college leadership....His chapter on why otherwise talented people fail as presidents may help save some careers.

~ Terry MacTaggart
Former Chancellor, University of Maine System
and Minnesota State University System


Harry Peterson knows small colleges, their commitment to excellence, their people, their inner dynamics, their quirks and foibles. This manual tells what you need to know, whether you are a sitting or aspiring president, dean, trustee, or citizen dedicated to seeing that small colleges in America remain a primary national resource.

~ Marvin Henberg
Former Academic Vice President and Interim President, Linfield College, McMinnville, OR


The only resource better than this handbook for small college presidents would be to know and to work directly with Harry Peterson over a period of time. Lamentably, only a few of us have had that extraordinary privilege and opportunity.

I followed Harry as president of our college and his brilliant mentoring has made it possible for me and our campus community to build upon the strong organizational foundation that he established several years ago. Leading a Small College or University is likely the next best thing (though a distant second) to working with Harry Peterson.

~ Jay Helman
President, Western State College of Colorado


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