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Dealing with the Hand God Gave Me

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Remembering the words spoken by then five year-old Valeria Tkacik still gives her mother, Anne, goose bumps. "I turned around to look at her and she was looking at me and smiling and I'll never forget that day. She said Mommy, I was born to make people happy. I said to her I know you will. I truly believe she was getting a message from the angels right then. And from all her achievements, I know this to be true." These days, Valeria is a standout lacrosse player for Ave Maria University in Florida. By all accounts, she is a leader on and off the field. Tkacik was named to the National Women's Lacrosse League South Regional Team and is considered a talented athlete who loves playing lacrosse, basketball, golf, track, soccer and flag football. A good student in the classroom, Tkacik was also accepted as a Mother Teresa Scholar at Ave Maria. She has contributed service time for charity work, including a mission trip to Harlem, NY where she served the poor and homeless. Also, Tkacik recently got a haircut and donated 12 inches of her hair to Art of Wigs (Texas) to help cancer patients. As a freshman, she served as a representative on Ave Maria's Student Government. For her sophomore year, Tkacik will serve on the Student Activities Board and was selected for Ave Maria's Media Internship Program. And if those achievements aren't enough, Valeria is also a motivational speaker, helping patients who are struggling with the loss of limbs and providing them encouragement. The reason? Tkacik can relate to their story. Read more...



President and Mrs. Towey Meet Pope Francis in Philadelphia

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Jim and Mary Towey greeted the Holy Father on Sunday after his departing remarks in a hangar at the Philadephia International Airport. President Towey told Pope Francis that Ave Maria University sent its love, and the Holy Father asked for our prayers.

Six Ave Maria University students, President Jim Towey, and Vice President for Student Affairs Julie Cosden were in Philadelphia for the Papal Events this past weekend. AMU's Director of Student Engagement and Operations, Martin Doman, and his band performed prior to Sunday's Mass with Pope Francis. Martin's band was selected as one of nine to perform on Sunday. The band includes two AMU alums, Ben Houde and Rich Dittus. 


Jim and Mary Towey greet the Holy Father.

(From L to R): VP for Student Affairs Julie Cosden, Rose Reed, Julian Sanderson, Laura Wittmann, Conner O’Brien, Corey Blanchard, and Chris DeCleene.

President Towey and VP for Student Affairs Julie Cosden with five of the six AMU students that traveled to Philadelphia. 

A glimpse of the Papal Motorcade driving through Philadelphia.

AMU's Director of Student Engagement and Operations, Martin Doman and his band performed prior to Sunday's Mass with Pope Francis.

Sunday's Mass in Philadelphia.

All photos by Chris DeCleene.



New Students Ready for Academic Year

Thursday, September 3, 2015

On August 31, Ave Maria University welcomed its newest class of students, the class of 2019. This new class brings the University's total undergraduate enrollment to a record of nearly 1,100 students. The Naples Daily News featured an article highlighting AMU's continued growth. Click this link to read more.




University Announces Three New Music Department Hires

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


August 12, 2015 (Ave Maria, FL) Ave Maria University is pleased to announce the hiring of three faculty members for the music department this fall. This is the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the fine arts at Ave Maria University,said Jim Towey, President of Ave Maria University.

Dr. Helen Tintes-Schuermann arrives from the Konservatorium Wien University in Vienna, Austria, where she has taught classical voice. An American who performs internationally, she has extensive performance experience in opera, oratorio, lied and musical theater, all of which complement her pedagogical skills. Says Tintes-Schuermann, “I encourage my students to become disciplined, creative performers, critical thinkers and concerned world citizens.” Several of her students have gone on to graduate degree programs. Dr. Tintes-Schuermann herself possesses five degrees or diplomas with her terminal degree being Doctor of Music from Northwestern University.

Dr. Seunghee Lee will join Ave Maria University from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she has served as a piano lab instructor and a lecturer. A composer, educator, and pianist, she possesses four degrees with her terminal degree being a Ph.D. in Music Composition and Theory from Brandeis University. Born in South Korea, she has performed internationally including notable venues in Germany, Finland, Italy, South Korea, and across the United States. Dr. Lee shares, “It is my mission to develop well rounded and technically equipped musicians who have the tools to succeed in all aspects of the classical and non-classical music field.”

Dr. Taylor Ferranti served as an Associate Professor of Voice at Cedarville University for many years. He is an accomplished singer, conductor, pianist, and vocal coach. Possessing three degrees and the Certificate of Vocology, his terminal degree is the Doctor of Musical Arts in Voice Performance and Voice Science from Louisiana State University where he was a student of renown pedagogue, Dr. Stephen F. Austin. “My goal as an educator is to be used by God to impact the lives of students I have the great privilege of teaching and mentoring,” said Dr. Ferranti.

Together with department chair, Dr. Susan Treacy, who offers to her students a love of sacred music and a deep appreciation of music history, the Music Department will instruct students interested in applied voice, piano, and organ performance.

Dr. Seana Sugrue, Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs, echoed Towey’s earlier sentiments. “I’m thrilled for our students who are going to benefit greatly from the substantial gifts of Ave Maria University’s dedicated artists and scholars.”

Press Release - PDF





Ave Maria University Receives Approval to Offer State Teaching Licenses

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ave Maria University has been awarded status as an “Initial Teacher Preparation Program” by the State of Florida’s Department of Education. This designation means that students who graduate with an Education Major from Ave Maria University automatically qualify for a Florida professional teaching license. AMU joins 48 other Florida colleges and universities authorized to provide initial teacher preparation in Florida. State approval required submission of an extensive report and artifacts documenting that AMU’s program presents required core content, prepares and tracks teacher-candidates in the required skills and dispositions expected of teachers, has an extensive program evaluation and continual improvement process in place, and has the ability to collect and document evidence for continued approval by the state. There are more than 700 program data points that the program must account for. A special database is used to track collect and evaluate artifacts as well as teacher-candidate performance on more than a hundred individual metrics.

“This was a huge process, taking many months of work” remarked education department chair Dr. Dan Guernsey, “I am grateful to the members of the department for their assistance as well as to Dr. Michael Dauphinais and President Towey for making sure we had the resources to move through this intense process at the greatest possible speed.”

The AMU Education Department has formed its core philosophy so as to be deeply in the Catholic tradition. While examining the field of education using methodologies and practices proper to the discipline, the program maintains a deliberate and explicit foundation in the philosophical and theological insights of the Catholic tradition, especially its understandings related to the nature and dignity of the human person, the nature of Truth, and the unity of all knowledge as ultimately rooted in the order of God and creation. Holding that education is more than simply preparing K-12 students for college and career, Ave Maria’s teacher candidates are formed to attend to authentic human liberation and orient their students to transcendental realities related to truth, beauty and goodness. The Ave Maria University Educational program provides a strong undergraduate preparation in the liberal arts and a strong Catholic worldview, providing for a powerful pedagogical punch. Our teacher candidates spend time thinking deeply about the liberal arts tradition in general and about the nature and purpose of Catholic education in particular.

The program anticipates continued growth now that teacher licensure is awarded upon graduation. Those who wish to return to a home state with a Florida license are usually able to transition to the new state’s license under reciprocity agreements between states. Formal entry into the major is only possible for rising juniors who have substantially completed their core liberal arts studies, maintained a sufficient GPA, passed the first of three required Florida Teacher Certification exams, and who have met other requirements typically begun in the spring of the sophomore year.



AMU Alumna Receives American Mathematical Society Scholarship

Friday, July 24, 2015

Elise McMahon (AMU Class of 2015) received a highly coveted scholarship from the American Mathematical Society to participate in the Math in Moscow program. The AMS awards only five scholarships given each semester; funding is provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF).  

According to the AMS website, "the Math in Moscow program was created in 2001 to provide foreign students (primarily from the U.S., Canada and Europe) with a semester-long, mathematically intensive program of study in the Russian tradition. The main feature of the Russian tradition of teaching mathematics has always been the development of a creative approach to studying mathematics from the outset, the emphasis being on problem solving rather than memorizing theorems. Indeed, discovering mathematics under the guidance of an experienced teacher is a central principle of the program and so the Math in Moscow program emphasizes in-depth understanding of carefully selected material rather than broad surveys of large quantities of material."   

Elise, who won the AMU Mathematics Departmental Award at this year's commencement exercises, had spent her last two summers doing research at the University of Texas at Tyler and at California State University at San Bernardino. She also spent a semester in the Budapest Mathematics Institute. She will be studying at the Independent University of Moscow (IUM) this fall.

More information on the AMS Math in Moscow Scholarship program can be found here.




AMU Announces the Hiring of Two New Faculty Members

Friday, July 17, 2015

Ave Maria University is pleased to announce the appointments of two new faculty members, Dr. Helen Tintes-Schuermann, Visiting Associate Professor of Music, and Dr. Michael New, Visiting Associate Professor of Economics. Each will join the faculty this fall.

Dr. Seana Sugrue, Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs, articulated the significance of these new hires to Ave Maria’s intellectual and cultural life: “Dr. Helen Tintes-Schuermann and Dr. Michael New are going to provide our students with invaluable opportunities for growth and advancement.  Each pursues excellence to the highest degree. Their commitment to our mission and their superior credentials in their respective fields complement those of our existing faculty. We look forward to their arrivals with joyful anticipation.”

Tintes-Schuermann has vast experience in opera, oratorio, concert and musical theater.  A singer-actress with broad teaching experience in applied voice, she is featured frequently in concert and recital.  Among her many strengths are Spanish/Latin American music, German repertoire, and works by 21st century composers.  Tintes most recently held the position of professor of voice at the Konservatorium Wien Private University in Vienna, Austria.  Trilingual, she is fluent in German, Spanish, and English.  Tintes received her Doctor of Music from Northwestern University and the Lied Diplom from the Hochschule "Mozarteum" in Salzburg. She has given master classes and concerts in Finland, Estonia, China, the USA and Spain.

Dr. Michael New from the University of Michigan-Dearbon joins Ave Maria University as Visiting Associate Professor of Economics.  New is a prolific writer, whose research fields and interests include morality policy, fiscal policy, and direct democracy. His studies are utilized by pro-life groups to argue for the effectiveness of various types of state-level laws restricting abortion. New is also an Adjunct Scholar of the Cato Institute.  New received his B.A. from Dartmouth College with a degree both in Government and Economics, graduating Magna Cum Laude with High Honors.  Following graduation, he went on to study at Stanford, receiving his Ph.D. in Political Science.  He has taught previously at the University of Alabama and the Harvard-MIT Data Center.



President Jim Towey Makes Appearance on Nightly Business Report

Friday, June 19, 2015

Ave Maria University President Jim Towey appeared on the PBS program, Nightly Business Report (NBR), on June 18th. The topic of discussion was Pope Francis and his latest encyclical on the environment and climate change.

View President Towey's piece below, beginning at the 10:30 mark.



President Towey to Appear on Nightly Business Report (PBS)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tune in tonight at 6:30pm for President Towey's appearance on Nightly Business Report, which airs on PBS. Check your local listings for scheduling information. The topic of discussion will be Pope Francis and his latest encyclical on the environment and climate change.

President Towey has previously appeared on several national news programs and has been a guest columnist in many newspapers on issues of faith, government and politics. He has served as President of two Catholic Universities, and as the White House Director of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and as the attorney and friend for Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.




AMU Student Wins Second Place in National Organ Competition

Friday, May 15, 2015

Ave Maria University sophomore and music major, Mary Joy Silmaro, was awarded 2nd place in the Rodgers North American Classical Organ Competition. Ms. Silmaro was selected by an international jury of high-profile performers: Dr. Frederick Swann, Dr. Christoph Bull, and Mr. Felix Hell.

For the final round, Mary Joy performed J.S. Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue in G minor (BWV 542) and Allegro Vivace from Fifth Symphony by Charles-Marie Widor.

"It was such a friendly atmosphere and I even got to know the other competitors better and became friends with them. I thought it would be really nerve-wracking for me to perform in front of the other competitors, who certainly have had more experience in performance and competitions, and the many professional organists. Rather, I was very excited to walk onto that stage and just have fun with my pieces. I had so much fun throughout the whole performance - I wish I could do it again!

All the hard work I put towards this competition has certainly paid off. I was even personally invited by one of the judges, Dr. Christoph Bull, organ professor at UCLA, to come to UCLA for graduate studies! I don’t know what exactly the future holds for me, but this competition has certainly opened many opportunities and possibilities for me. I am truly grateful to Rodgers and the other competitors for making this a worthwhile experience, and to my parents and all the professors of Ave Maria University for all their support."

About Mary Joy Silmaro
Mary Joy Silmaro is a sophomore at Ave Maria University where she studies organ under Dr. Brice Gerlach. Mary Joy began her music training at age 5 with piano lessons from her homeschooling mother. She embarked on formal piano studies at age 7, violin at age 8, and voice at age 9. After her family moved to Newark, CA, she transitioned to studying organ and Gregorian chant with Sam Dorlaque, music director at St. Edward Catholic Church in Newark, CA. Mary Joy worked as organist and cantor in several churches in her teens, and currently serves at part-time organist at the Oratory in the town of Ave Maria, Florida.

About the Rodgers North American Classical Organ Competition
The Rodgers North American Classical Organ Competition has been revamped and focuses on young performers 14 to 22 years old.

Finalists performed in the Music Theater of the stunning Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. MIM is dedicated to offering a shared experience of the history of musical instruments throughout the world to visitors who tour its 200,000 square feet of exhibit space displaying instruments from 200 countries and regions.

Cash awards for competition winners are $3,000 for first place, $2,000 for second and $1,500 for third. Winners of past competitions have gone on to appear as recitalists playing for audiences around the country.


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