Examining the role of the female community college president’s spouse : perceptions from spouses, presidents, and boards of trustees




Leggett, Mia Shea

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Kintzer’s (1972) The President’s Wife: A Handbook for Wives of New Community College Presidents was the first publication that provided insight into the world of the community college president’s spouse. Written for female spouses, when community colleges were growing at a rate of one new college a week, this timely and relevant “how to guide” outlined in detail the do’s and don’ts to being a successful community college presidential spouse. Forty years later, women have transitioned from the spousal role to leading the college. Today women represent nearly 30% of all community college presidents. Research regarding the female president and her pathway to the presidency continues to emerge, but little attention has been focused on the president’s husband and his role as a presidential spouse. Understanding and investigating the role of the male spouse is significant as more women continue their pathway to the presidency, and there is anecdotal evidence that the spouse of a community college president can be influential, albeit the college does not employ the spouse. ix This qualitative study examined the role of the female community college president’s spouse. Utilizing Vaughan (1987) and Smith’s (2001) studies regarding the role of the community college spouse as a framework, this study posed the following research questions:

  1. How do male spouses describe their roles? 2. How do female community college presidents describe their spouse’s roles? 3. How do members of the boards of trustees describe the roles of male spouses? Fifteen participants, including five female college presidents, five male spouses, and five trustees were interviewed for this study. Participants reside throughout the Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest regions of the United States, representing rural and suburban community colleges at both single and multi-campus institutions. Findings suggest the male spouse plays an important role in his wife’s pathway presidency and supporting her throughout the entire presidency. The male spouse also has a public life role and a private life role. Ultimately, the role of the male spouse is to support his wife so she can be a successful community college leader.



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