H. James Towey is in his sixth year as president of Ave Maria University.
His career has included previous 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 duties as president and chief executive officer of Ave Maria University climax a remarkable professional journey.
During his tenure as Ave Maria University’s second president, Mr. Towey has ushered in record enrollment, over $40 million in fundraising, 19 new majors, and also transitioned the institution toward annual surpluses. His frequent media appearances include The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the PBS News Hour and Fox News’ Fox and Friends, and have raised the national profile of the University.
Mr. Towey began his career in academia in 2006 as 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. Previously Mr. Towey lectured at some of America’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Notre Dame, Duke and Davidson.
Prior to entering academia, Mr. Towey served as 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 tracked 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 Governor Lawton Chiles (D-FL). In the latter post he presided for two years 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 her 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 20 million copies and is available in 23 languages.
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 the 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, and six honorary doctorate degrees.
He and his wife Mary have five children and reside in the town of Ave Maria, Florida.