Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Leadership (MAL)



First Advisor

Daniel Hanson

Second Advisor

Norma Noonan

Third Advisor

Allan Bernard


This research addresses the question: what factors contribute to a group successfully navigating times of crisis and what roles does the leader play in this navigation. Given recent events such as the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the tsunami that devastated Indonesia in 2004, the catastrophic force of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the most recent earthquake in 2010 that decimated Haiti, coupled with the current tenuous international political climate, the need to understand how groups move through crisis and what role leadership plays is vitally important.

To study this question, the crisis of Marshall University will be analyzed. On November 14th, 1970, a chartered Southern Airways flight carrying the Marshall University football team, coaching staff and many members of the community, crashed outside Huntington, West Virginia. There were no survivors. Left behind were two assistant coaches and three varsity players that were not aboard the flight. After much deliberation, the university decided to carry on with the football program and hired Jack Lengyel of Wooster College to lead the rebuilding effort.

A case study of the Marshall University football program will be conducted for this research. During this research, literature in the field of crisis management will be reviewed, literature in the area of storytelling within the context of leadership will be reviewed, the crisis of the plane crash and its aftermath will be analyzed, an interview with Coach Lengyel will be conducted, and a crisis leadership model will be developed for the purpose of determining how effectively a given leader navigates times of crisis.


SC 11.MAL.2012.Kidwell.M