Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Johanna S. Hunsaker, PhD, Director; William P. Foster, EdD; Joseph C. Rost, PhD


corporate culture, Ethnography, goals, Great American First Savings Bank, Leadership studies, mature organization, Phenomenology


Much recent attention has been focused on organizational culture as a useful vehicle for understanding organizations. There have been many studies of the cultures of organizations and some on efforts by leaders to change them or implant new ones. Most of these have dealt with founders, their successors or other early generations of leadership or management. Many of them are anecdotal and most, if not all, have been conducted by researchers external to the organization. The limited time and access typically available to the researchers have generally impeded efforts to penetrate to the core culture or to identify significant subcultures. Moreover, there is a paucity of research efforts which examine the transformation of an existing culture in an already-mature business enterprise. This descriptive research employs the historical case study, ethnographic and phenomenological methodologies to determine how a culture evolved at Great American First Savings Bank and how it was transformed by leaders to facilitate attainment of a shared vision and goals for the organization. A history of the 104-year-old financial institution has been developed to serve as necessary background for understanding the culture which evolved. The study describes the current corporate culture as well as the several subcultures which have developed and the persons, events and circumstances which influenced them. The interaction of the main culture and subcultures was also analyzed. Examined also was the effect of mergers and acquisitions upon the parent culture and the culture of the acquired companies. Attempts to preserve the main culture during periods of dramatic change, dynamic growth, deregulation and transformation to a sales and service culture were analyzed. Data were gathered from records, minutes, artifacts, newspaper accounts, periodicals, meetings, conversations and direct observations extending over a period of five years. Additionally, 23 interviews were conducted with current and former members of the organization at various levels and in various locations throughout the company. Results indicate that the culture evolved into a strong, coherent culture over a period of 85 years and that two leaders effected a major transformation of it in order to better position the company and its stakeholders for the growth and competitive environment they knew lay ahead. The findings further suggest that the concept of culture modification is a powerful tool for effecting transformational change or for leading organizations through periods of turbulent change while preserving the basic values and spirit of the organization.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access