H. James Towey is the second president of Ave Maria University.
His career has included service as a college president, senior advisor to the President of
the United States, key aide to a Congressional leader, member of the cabinet of Florida’s
governor, founder of a national non-profit organization, and legal counsel to Blessed
Mother Teresa of Calcutta. His return to his home state of Florida and the assumption of
his new duties as president and chief executive officer of Ave Maria University climax a
remarkable professional journey.
Mr. Towey began his career in academia in 2006 when he became the 16th president of Saint
Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. During his four years the college set records
for enrollment and fundraising and moved into the first-tier of national liberal arts
colleges in the annual U.S. News and World Report rankings. Mr. Towey has lectured at some
of America’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning, including Harvard, Yale,
Princeton, Dartmouth, Notre Dame, Duke and Davidson.
Prior to leading Saint Vincent, Mr. Towey served as an Assistant to the President of the
United States. He was a member of President George W. Bush’s senior staff and attended
meetings of his Cabinet. As director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community
Initiatives from 2002 to 2006, Mr. Towey oversaw billions of dollars in federal grants that
were awarded annually to faith-based charities serving the poor. His bipartisan
collaborations led more than 30 governors to open offices to assist religious charities in
their states, and he staffed presidential initiatives to assist drug addicts, prisoners
re-entering society, and at-risk youth.
Mr. Towey was no stranger to government. Previously he served as legislative director and
legal counsel to the Chairman of the United States Senate Appropriations Committee, Mark
Hatfield (R-Oregon) and also served in the cabinet of Florida Governor Lawton Chiles. In
the latter post he presided over 40,000 employees and a budget of $4 billion as head of the nation’s largest state health and human services agency.
In 1985 Mr. Towey became personal friends with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and served
as her legal counsel in the United States during the last 12 years of her life. He was a
full-time volunteer for her for two years, living with her order of priests in their
seminary in Tijuana, Mexico, and caring for the dying in her home for people with AIDS in
Washington. Mr. Towey was a member of the official delegations sent by the President of
the United States for both Mother Teresa’s funeral in Calcutta in 1997, and beatification
at St. Peter’s Basilica in 2003.
At the urging of Mother Teresa, Mr. Towey founded Aging with Dignity, a non-profit
organization that helps families plan for and discuss end-of-life care. He created the
widely-popular advance directive Five Wishes, which has sold over 14 million copies. Aging
with Dignity has become the nation’s leading advocate for the rights of those facing
serious illness and remains headquartered in Tallahassee.
Mr. Towey graduated from Florida State University in 1978 earning a Bachelor of Science
degree with high honors and was inducted in the national honorary society Phi Kappa Phi. He
went on to earn a Juris Doctor from Florida State University College of Law in 1981 and
subsequently became a member of the Florida Bar. In 2009 he was recognized by Florida State
University’s Alumni Association as one of its top 100 graduates of the century.
He has received many honors, including the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal from His
Holiness Pope John Paul II, the “Fifty Most Influential Christians in America” award from
Church World magazine, the “Power and Influence Top Fifty” award from the Non-Profit Times
magazine, and the “Grads Made Good” award from Florida State University’s Omicron Delta
Kappa. He also has been awarded six honorary doctorate degrees.
He and his wife Mary have five children and reside in the town of Ave Maria, Florida.