When the Pot Boils

The Decline and Turnaround of Drexel University

By David A. Paul

Subjects: Education, Higher Education, Educational Administration, Education Policy And Leadership, Organization Theory
Paperback : 9780791474228, 244 pages, January 2009
Hardcover : 9780791474211, 244 pages, May 2008

Table of contents

List of Figures

1. Introduction

2. Anthony Drexel's Legacy: Cooperative Education and the Urban Working Class

3. The Past as Prologue: Becoming a University 1970-1984

4. The Disposable President: William S. Gaither 1984-1987

5. Taking Stock

6. Redemption: The Presidency of Richard Breslin 1988-1992

7. Hitting Bottom: The End of the Breslin Presidency 1993-1995

8. Turnaround: The First Years of the Presidency of Constantine Papadakis 1995-1998

9. The End of the Story

Note on Research Methods

Tells the story of the decline and near bankruptcy of a major American university, and how its dramatic turnaround was quickly achieved.


When the Pot Boils examines the decline and near bankruptcy of Drexel University in the late 1980s and early 1990s and its subsequent dramatic turnaround. David A. Paul provides an in-depth analysis of the multiple factors that contributed to this process, including the role of the market, the academic culture, corporate governance, and key leaders of the institution. Drexel's story of decline through years of student protests, faculty conflicts, a destructive labor strike, and two failed presidencies is a parable of failed corporate governance and a warning of the challenges to colleges and universities in the increasingly competitive world of higher education. Paul argues that for schools facing financial difficulties, retrenchment strategies must be set aside in favor of the more difficult task of developing organizational missions and programs that matter in the marketplace.

David A. Paul is President of Fiscal Strategies Group, Inc., an independent financial advisory and investment banking firm in municipal and project finance. At Drexel University, he was Vice Provost from 2002 to 2004 and Senior Associate Vice President from 2001 to 2002. He holds a Ed.D. in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania.


"This highly readable and informative case-study of the recent fortunes of Drexel University in Philadelphia demonstrates how effective leadership and wise strategic decisions can reverse the fortunes of a failing university … [a] useful addition to our literature by identifying the circumstances under which Drexel's new president reversed the university's path to certain bankruptcy and what strategies seemed to work in these circumstances." — Higher Education

"David Paul combines a wealth of detail with compelling narrative force to hold the reader's attention while the important lessons of Drexel's decline and turnaround are set forth." — William F. Massy, coauthor of Remaking the American University: Market-Smart and Mission-Centered