The weekend of May 3rd and 4th, 2019 featured several key events for Ave Maria University’s graduating Class of 2019. This was the largest group of graduates since the University’s founding with 248 Baccalaureate degree recipients, ten receiving a Masters of Arts in Theology, and one receiving a Doctor of Philosophy in Theology. The weekend activities began Friday evening with the traditional Baccalaureate Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank Dewane in the Ave Maria Parish Church. The Mass featured a procession of faculty and graduating students concluding with the graduate cap toss on the Church steps.
Following Mass, the annual President’s Dinner was held in the Bob Thomas Student Union which featured President Towey addressing a packed house and reviewing each of the finalists for the 2019 President’s Award selected from a distinguished group of nominees. The President’s Award is the highest honor conferred by AMU upon a graduating senior each year. This year’s winner was James Wesley (see more details in the related article dated May 3).
AMU’s 15th Commencement was held on the morning of Saturday, May 4th inside of the Tom Golisano Field House. The event was attended by a crowd of well over 1,200, including Ave’s founder and Chancellor Tom Monaghan and other members of the University’s Board of Trustees. The ceremony began with a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem by graduating senior Angelie Batista followed by an invocation by Fr. Rick Martignetti, OFM. President Towey provided the ceremony’s opening remarks and reminded graduates that, “However you serve, wherever you go, remember that you are called to spread the gospel and the good news.”
President Towey then proceeded to confer an honorary Doctorate degree upon Dr. Louis C. Argenta. Dr. Argenta is an internationally renowned surgeon who pioneered numerous techniques for treating wounds and burns. Dr. Argenta is a professor and chairman emeritus in the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Wake Forest University. He is also a member of AMU’s Board of Trustees, chairing the Academic Affairs Committee, who has been a strong University supporter for many years.
The commencement address was given by United States Congressman Dan Lipinski (D, IL). Representative Lipinski is in a unique position in American politics today as a conservative, pro-life Democrat and a humble politician. Representative Lipinski serves as co-chair for the bi-partisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. Rep. Lipinski congratulated the graduating students for choosing Ave Maria University and completing the education and preparation to take Jesus with them as they enter the world. He urged graduates to, “Focus on a vocation and not just a career.” And to, “Always listen to God and have the courage to go where He is leading you.”
Following the conferring of degrees and awarding of diplomas, 2019 Valedictorian Genevieve Riley addressed her fellow graduates. Riley graduated with a 4.0 GPA in Accounting with a minor in Economics. She was in the AMU Honors Program and the Sigma Beta Delta Honor Society. In addition, she was a member of the Talitha Koum household, a Resident Assistant and spent four years on the varsity soccer team where she was a captain this past year. Riley’s address spoke about the “Ave Experience” which has prepared this class to go out into the world to achieve greatness as followers of Christ. She concluded with these words for her classmates, “It’s finally time to perform and put into play what we have practiced for four years, it’s gametime!”
Congratulations Ave Maria University Class of 2019!
One of the great figures of the 20th century, Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, a worldwide network of homes for persons with intellectual or physical disabilities, died peacefully in the early morning hours of May 7th, surrounded by his loved ones in Trosly-Breuil, France where he lived for over 50 years. He was 90.
Vanier, the winner of the Templeton Prize and countless other awards, received an honorary doctorate from Ave Maria University in June 2017 when AMU President Jim Towey and his wife, Mary, visited him in Paris. The University’s Board of Trustees voted to confer this distinction upon Vanier for his lifelong witness to his Catholic faith and fearless advocacy for the rights of the developmentally disabled. Because Vanier no longer traveled outside of Europe, the honorary degree was presented on behalf of the AMU trustees by the Toweys at a private lunch in his honor.
“I had the privilege of knowing Jean for nearly 35 years and his life as philosopher, best-selling author, founder of L’Arche communities throughout the world, and friend of the poor and rejected, will continue to influence all those who read his writings, visit L’Arche homes, or ponder his life’s meaning,” Towey said. “His insights into the heart of Jesus, particularly through his study of the Gospel of John, evidence his close and continuous walk with the Lord over these many decades. He will be sorely missed. I am happy he is at home with his beloved Father.”
Vanier’s funeral Mass will be held next week in the small community in France where he founded L’Arche in 1964. His Holiness Pope Francis issued a special statement in honor of Vanier’s valiant life and countless humanitarian achievements. During his lifetime many considered Vanier to be a living saint. He was a friend and adviser to the last four popes and a leader in the inter-religious dialogue in which the Church engages.
Ave Maria University students, parents, faculty, staff, and trustees gathered on the Friday evening prior to the Class of 2019 commencement in the Student Union for the annual President’s Dinner. Event attendees enjoyed a wonderful meal along with formal addresses from AMU President, Jim Towey and Dr. James Patterson who was nominated by this year’s graduates to close the event.
President Towey addressed the crowd with highlights from the most recent academic year and finished with an overview of this year’s President’s Award finalists and the winner. The President’s Award is the highest honor Ave Maria University confers upon a graduate every academic year. Each of this year’s finalists demonstrated amazing leadership skills, academic and extracurricular achievements, and embodiment of the AMU Catholic ideals and mission.
There were 26 students nominated by faculty, administration, and fellow student for this year’s award which was not surprising given the outstanding graduating seniors. The GPA’s of our five finalists range from 3.78 to 3.99 which demonstrates an extremely high level of academic achievement on top on the numerous and diverse extracurricular activities in which each participated.
In alphabetical order, the first finalist was Stephen Akers, B.A. in Accounting and a former President of the Student Government Association (also a former Treasurer). In his SGA roles, Stephen streamlined accounting processes, added accountability, and developed a national network of student government leaders. Stephen was on the AMU President’s Council and worked in both Marketing and Career Services this past year.
Stephen has participated in Mother Teresa Project local service work and mission trips. Outside the University, he worked hard to expand his resume with internships including consulting for an NGO in Madrid and working for the London Stock Exchange Group in New York. A fellow student described Stephen as “hard-working, driven, ambitious, efficient, kind, compassionate, bright and loving.” Those attributes are certainly the fruit of his love of the Eucharist, of which he frequently ministers at Mass.
Stephen is now off to Washington, DC to start his career with Gartner, Inc., a global research and advisory group.
The second finalist was Bernadette Hartney a double major in Biochemistry and Health Sciences and a member of the Honors Program and Pre-Med Club. She played four years of intercollegiate soccer and was a team captain. She was a Mother Teresa Scholar who skipped sleep regularly to drive to Miami and help in the Missionaries of Charity soup kitchen, and she spent time in Haiti on a mission trip with classmates.
On campus, Bernadette served on the Student Activities Board and served on the Athletics Advisory Board Executive Committee. She was active in her Talitha Koum household, Bible study, and the Pro-life Club where she marched for life in Washington, D.C. nearly every year. Despite all of the demands on her schedule, she often showed others how to put God first.
Before she starts her career in medicine, Bernadette will spend the upcoming academic year helping Coach Rosser further develop the AMU women’s soccer program.
The third finalist was Brooke Pierron with a near perfect GPA as a Theology major. She was President of the Breakfast Club that took surplus food to farmworker families in nearby Immokalee and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity.
Brooke spent four years at AMU as an intercollegiate athlete, primarily as a star pitcher for softball and captain who won a Coach’s Award. She also played on the women’s basketball team. Those who know her will tell you that Brooke is a team player who doesn’t seek the spotlight. She is the co-founder and co-leader of a campus women’s household; she helped lead bible study for softball players; she served on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee; and she wrote for the Campus Ministry blog promoting the Genuine Feminine Conference.
Brooke’s classmates love her kindness and quick wit, and non-pretentious faith. Her resume shows that for the last four summers she worked as a missionary for the Catholic Youth Summer Camp organization counseling high school students. Brooke is now moving on to work at the Damascus Catholic Mission Campus in Ohio.
The fourth finalist was Mary Rexroat who majored in Biochemistry and minored in Biology. She was also the most recent President of the Student Government Association where she made sure students voices were heard by the administration.
During her time at AMU, Mary consistently proved her servant leadership abilities. She was a two-term leader of the Mary Magdalene household, a Resident Assistant, a Mother Teresa Scholar, a volunteer driver for local service work, and a regular with Habitat for Humanity. In addition, Mary was one of Ave’s top cross country runners.
Throughout her busy AMU life, Mary demonstrated her fearless faith. As her roommate noted, “From our first weekend here at Ave, Mary was inviting me to Mass, Oremus, and Holy Hour…Her prayer life has inspired me to make mine a priority.” Mary will marry Andrew Nussbaum (’18) this summer and start her career as a Manager of Regulatory Affairs at a medical technology company. She then plans to begin work on a Master’s degree as a Physician’s Assistant.
This year’s last finalist and the 2019 President’s Award winner was James Wesley! James long list of credentials includes Music Ministry, being a Residence Assistant, leading the men’s household Ardens Virtus, and being both an Alpha team leader and a Mother Teresa Scholar.
James talents have also allowed him to perform on stage in cabarets, one musical, and “Ave’s Got Talent,” and to perform at AMU events in a band with his fellow students. He was also a JV basketball player for a couple of years. Most notably, James is a humble, unassuming follower of Jesus, always thinking of others as better than himself.
Through his years at Ave, James’ hard work paid off as he graduated summa cum laude with a Biochemistry degree and will attend the University of Toledo College of Medicine in the fall. Congratulations James!
TALLAHASSEE, FL (April 3, 2019) – In a first for a college president, Ave Maria University President Jim Towey gave the keynote speech at the Annual Florida Legislative Prayer Breakfast in the Cabinet Room of the Capitol Building. Attending the event were Governor Ron DeSantis, Senate President Bill Galvano, House Speaker Jose Oliva, and many other influential members of the Legislature. The gathering took place at the exact midpoint of the 60-day legislative session.
Towey, who served 25 years ago in the cabinet of then-Governor Lawton Chiles as Secretary of Florida’s massive, 40,000-employee Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, challenged Florida’s leaders to see the image of God in the poor and vulnerable who live on the margins of society, and give them “a shepherd’s care.” Florida has four million senior citizens, with nearly 1.5 million living near or below the poverty level, and a swelling foster care population. He said, “Too many adults have placed their own interests ahead of the interests of their children, or the elderly and disabled. We all have watched parents who didn’t parent, or as the prophet Ezekiel described, shepherds who pastured themselves instead of the sheep. When that happens, the sheep suffer.”
Legislative leaders also were cautioned by Towey about “the rapid advance of artificial intelligence and its inevitable dehumanizing effect on society.” He quoted Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who wrote in Spe Salvi that “not everything technically possible is ethically permissible,” and warned of the dangers when science is not informed by faith.
Governor DeSantis followed Towey to the podium and cited the nation’s rich tradition of seeking the guidance of Divine Providence in the affairs of state. Speaker Oliva concluded the program and proceeded to do just that. Notably, for the first time in Florida’s history, the governor, Senate president, and House speaker all profess the Catholic faith.
Towey summed up the purpose of the morning’s gathering. He said, “A prayer breakfast reminds us of the simple proposition that we need God. Confess this need, and the Lord will show you how to lead as you serve in high office.” He encouraged state officials to be servant leaders. “The Lord left you an example when He washed the feet of His disciples. He taught you how to lead from below, not from above, not by lording authority over others, but by humbly serving, by shepherding, by placing the needs of others above your own.”
Ave Maria, Florida (March 28, 2019) – The Vice President of the United States, the Honorable Mike Pence, visited and addressed the University community on Thursday, March 28. The Vice
It was an honor for our University to welcome Vice President Pence to our campus. In September 2017, he met many AMU students when visiting the area during the aftermath of hurricane Irma.
Prior to addressing the University community in the O’Bryan Performance Hall of the Thomas and Selby Prince Building, Vice President Pence toured the new Mother Teresa Museum that was officially dedicated in that building last month.
Vice President Pence’s record of public service and how he seeks to live his Christian faith in the public square is admirable, and his remarks to our students were both thoughtful and inspiring. Watch his address here.
Last May the University hosted the Honorable Betsy DeVos, United States Secretary of the Department of Education, during Ave Maria’s 14th commencement exercises. This year’s commencement speaker is the Honorable Dan Lipinski (D-Illinois) who is Co-Chair of the Congressional Pro-life Caucus and an eight-term Congressman. “Ave Maria University has an exemplary record of bringing public servants and other high-profile leaders who have distinguished themselves as promoters of the sanctity of life, religious freedom, and other principles and values which we as a Catholic institution hold dear,” said Michael Timmis, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Ave Maria University.
AVE MARIA, Fla. (March 6, 2019) — Ave Maria University announced today that eight-term Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-Illinois) will be its commencement speaker at this year’s graduation exercises. The University also announced that it will confer an honorary degree on Dr. Lou Argenta, professor and chairman emeritus, department of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, in recognition of his exemplary life as professor, craniofacial surgeon, inventor, and Catholic layman.
Congressman Lipinski represents constituents of the southwest side of Chicago, southwestern Cook County, and portions of northeastern Will County. One of just a dozen trained engineers in Congress, Lipinski holds degrees from Northwestern University, Stanford, and Duke University (a Ph.D. in political science from the latter). He also had short stints as a professor at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Tennessee.
“The Class of 2019 will appreciate as their commencement speaker a man with the strength of his convictions who fearlessly lives out his Catholic faith in the public square,” AMU President Jim Towey said. “Congressman Lipinski’s voting record on life, religious liberties, and other issues reflects often lonely, always principled, positions, and we are thrilled to have him and his wife Judy on our campus this May.”
Dr. Argenta is internationally renowned as a craniofacial surgeon, as well as for pioneering techniques in the treatment of wounds and burns that have helped millions all over the world. Dr. Argenta has been an Ave Maria University trustee since 2015 and chairs the Board’s Academic Affairs Committee. He and his wife Ginger have eight children, including daughters Sara (Class of 2015) and Claire (Class of 2019).
“Congressman Lipinski and Dr. Argenta see their vocations in politics and medicine, respectively, as opportunities to put their faith into practice and serve the Church,” Towey said. “These gentlemen are wonderfully aligned with Ave Maria’s identity and mission, and demonstrate the power of the Catholic lay vocation in striving to improve the lives of others and make the world a better place through their courageous witness.”
Ave Maria University’s commencement takes place on May 4, 2019 at 10AM in the Tom Golisano Field House. Approximately 250 men and women are expected to receive diplomas at this year’s ceremony. These exercises will be the institution’s 15th graduation overall and 12th on its permanent campus. Recent commencement speakers have included U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos; former Florida Governor Jeb Bush; Carlyle Group Co-founder, Dan D’Aniello; U.S. Senator Rick Scott; Librarian of Congress Dr. James Billington; President of the American Enterprise Institute, Dr. Arthur Brooks; and His Eminence Sean Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and AMU trustee.
AVE MARIA, FL (January 30, 2019) – Statement on Insidehighered.com Article and Michael Raiger Lawsuit
The recent insidehighered.com story “Foreclosing on Faculty Critic” is biased and misleading. The author, Doug Lederman, is a longstanding advocate for disgraced Catholic priest Mark Gruber and wrote extensively a decade ago in defense of him. President Towey suspended Gruber in 2009 when Towey was president of Saint Vincent College. The cruxnow.com story – https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-americas/2018/10/24/ave-maria-president-wants-church-to-come-clean-on-abuse-crisis/ – recounts the depravity of Mark Gruber’s conduct as a priest and explains why His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI himself signed the decrees removing Gruber from the priesthood and monastic life (excerpts of story are reprinted below).
Unfortunately, Gruber apparently has joined forces with former Ave Maria University faculty member Michael Raiger and his wife Caitlin in what appears to be a determined effort to undermine Ave Maria University and discredit its president. At a time when the Church reels from the scandal of clerical abuse, it is sad that Lederman and the Raigers would provide Gruber with a platform to manipulate the truth. Caitlin Raiger acknowledged in a 2018 email to one of her former dental patients that she and her husband were collaborating with Gruber. The deceptive insidehighered.com hit piece followed.
It is disappointing that the Raigers would choose to be in league with a defrocked priest who so gravely dishonored his vows. The Raigers’ lawsuit has striking similarities to the one which Gruber filed in 2010 when he, too, personally sued President Towey (Gruber abruptly abandoned his lawsuit after his past was revealed in the deposition). The University has in its possession the entire court file on Gruber, including the four DVD’s and transcript of his videotaped deposition; keystroke tracking logs definitively placing Gruber at his computer viewing youth-oriented pornography, thus refuting his claims that a student was responsible; and the photos and other exhibits that led to his laicization by the Holy Father.
On Friday Michael Raiger filed yet another (third) version of his lawsuit against the University. In an age of “fake news,” the University now faces a “fake lawsuit.” His efforts to malign the good names of AMU faculty will not go unchallenged. It is indeed unfortunate that money which could be spent on Ave Maria students must instead be diverted toward legal fees as the University defends itself and its faculty against the preposterous charges contained in the Raiger lawsuit.
With respect to the Raiger home, when Michael Raiger’s employment with the University ended in June 2017, he did not approach the University to make arrangements to repay the $150,000 interest-free loan which he and his wife received from AMU in 2007. Instead, he sued the University. Earlier this month the Collier County Circuit Court judge presiding over this lawsuit ruled in favor of Ave Maria University’s counter-claim. The judge’s final order requires the Raigers to pay back the amount they borrowed. At the direction of the Board of Trustees, the University is also pursuing repayment from other former employees who similarly borrowed funds and maintain delinquent loans.
The University will prevail in this litigation and continue to protect its reputation and that of those administrators, faculty and staff who labor to fulfill Ave Maria’s Catholic mission “to form joyful, intentional followers of Jesus Christ through Word and Sacrament, scholarship and service.”
Excerpts of October 24, 2018 article published on cruxnow.com by writer Christopher White:
“In June 2009, Towey informed the archabbot of Saint Vincent College in Pennsylvania, where he was then serving as president, that a member of the faculty, Father Mark Gruber, had downloaded pornographic images onto a university computer. Towey subsequently informed the diocese of Greensburg and the local police and suspended Gruber immediately.
Gruber, who taught anthropology, purportedly enjoyed wide public support on campus and fought back, claiming a student had downloaded the images and reported it to him in the confessional.”
“As the investigation ensued, a campus IT official discovered that Gruber had made efforts to delete files remotely from his computer that had been confiscated by the police. The investigation yielded even more damning evidence against Gruber, including nude photos of himself he shared with students on campus, a log of visits to other pornographic youth-oriented sites, and personal writings detailing the priest’s sexual fantasies involving naked children, including acts between a 5-year-old and a 16-year-old. Along with the criminal investigation, Gruber’s case was sent to the Vatican for investigation and the diocese suspended his priestly faculties.”
“In June 2012, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sentenced Gruber to a life of payer and penance after finding him guilty of “possession of child pornography, the crime of production of materials which gravely injure good morals, abuse of the Sacrament of Confession with the aggravating factor of manipulation of conscience, and the defamation of a legitimate superior.” Less than a month later, after resisting the Vatican sentence, he was formally dismissed from the clerical state and monastery by signature of Pope Benedict XVI.”
AVE MARIA, Fla. (December 12, 2018) — Ave Maria University announced today that it has been ranked 1st among Private Florida Universities by the personal-finance website WalletHub, which released its 2019’s Best College & University Rankings. The criteria used by WalletHub in evaluating nearly 1,000 colleges and universities nationally included 30 key measures grouped into seven categories: Student Selectivity, Costs and Financing, Faculty Resources, Campus Safety, Campus Experience, Educational Outcomes, and Career Outcomes. The rankings also place Ave Maria University 6th in Florida, 42nd in the Southern United States, and 188th nationally. In regards to Catholic universities, Ave ranks 1st in Florida, 2nd in the Southern United States, and 17th Nationally.
“This confirms that Ave Maria University is a high value, high quality choice for parents and students who want the best ‘bang for the buck’,” AMU President Jim Towey said. “We have incredible faculty and staff, students who are highly capable and motivated, and a board of trustees that is fully invested in the University,” he added.
Ave Maria University established its permanent campus near Naples, FL in 2007, and has since expanded the number of majors offered from 11 to 33, including programs in business, nursing, education, and the arts and sciences. The University this year has an enrollment of 1,100 that includes students from 45 states and 20 countries, and a student body that is approximately 82% Catholic, 25% minority, and evenly-divided between men and women. Ave Maria’s state-of-the-art campus offers six residence halls with a capacity for 1,300 students and rests on a tract of over 300 acres in Southwest Florida. “Our rapid rise in the rankings proves that you can have small class sizes and first-rate professors and still be affordable,” Towey said. Tuition, room and board at the University ranked among the lowest of the private schools evaluated by WalletHub, and the average debt of an Ave Maria graduate, too, is well below the national average.
Ave Maria University is a Catholic, liberal arts institution of higher learning devoted to Mary the Mother of God, inspired by St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta, and dedicated to the formation of joyful, intentional followers of Jesus Christ through Word and Sacrament, scholarship and service. For more information on Ave Maria University, visit https://www.avemaria.edu.
CONTACT: Katy Thoele
Program Manager, Advancement
John Towey, a senior studying Politics and Economics, is a Campus Representative of Ave Maria University at the James Madison Institute. John started working for JMI about a year ago and explains that, “the overarching goal of the program is to take the work of JMI and the principles which they stand for and bring it to Ave Maria through campus and community events which promote economic freedom, liberty, and limited government.” He describes how he received the opportunity to work and write for JMI, “I had the great honor of being able to intern this summer with JMI in their Tallahassee office. The James Madison Institute is a policy research think tank specifically for Florida public policy issues, so Tallahassee is really the hub for all political activity in Florida. JMI does a great job in giving their interns tremendous amounts of autonomy – especially when it comes to writing and publishing.” John believes that, when compared to other notable think tanks, JMI “does the best job at engaging college students and giving them opportunities they might not have elsewhere.”
In reference to his recent articles published by JMI, John explains that the first of his writing opportunities was a book review of Jonah Goldberg’s recently published book, Suicide of the West. “The book explores the historical and political development of liberal democracy in the West and the illiberal attacks the system is weathering from groups on both the political right and left. Through my writing I tried to highlight Goldberg’s main fear which is that tribalistic impulses in the form of progressivism and nationalism/populism are tearing the social fabric of the country apart, reverting it to a pre-modern system of governance. After the review went through editing, I had the opportunity to write another article focusing on some of the more practical public policy issues which JMI is pushing for in the next Florida legislative session. Specifically, this piece explored structural solutions which can be adopted to combat several of the problems which occupational licensing and excessive administrative regulation creates in the state.” John explains that he enjoyed writing both articles because of the different areas of politics that the source materials dealt with. “The Jonah Goldberg review spoke on political philosophy, history, and culture, whereas the piece on structural reform was really focused on getting into the gritty details of specific public policy reform.”
Towards the end of the summer internship John was informed that both pieces would be published in JMI’s fall journal “which was really exciting. It was a strange but proud moment to see some of my writing in a think tank journal alongside contributors who have Ph.D’s in public policy and have worked in all levels of government.”
When asked how he felt about being a published Ave Maria student, John states, “I am tremendously grateful. I owe a lot of the credit to my professors, especially those in the politics department, who have demanded a high standard of writing and in the process have refined and improved my writing. I know several of my classmates have had similar opportunities to intern, publish, and do other impressive work in this area so I think this speaks to the quality of the education you can get here at Ave.”
Articles can be found below.
October 8, 2018 Ave Maria, Florida Michael Timmis, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Ave Maria University, announced that Jim Towey will be stepping down as president on June 30, 2020. Towey began as AMU’s second president in July 2011. Timmis also announced that in the summer of 2019 the Board would begin a national search for Towey’s successor.
Timmis praised Towey’s leadership and extolled the University’s many achievements during the last seven years. “Jim Towey stabilized Ave Maria during a time of crisis, and ushered in an era of stability and growth,” Timmis said. “Had it ever come to a vote the Board would have extended his term because he’s done such a great job, but Jim thought the time was right to step down when his contract ends, and transition leadership.”
Among the significant accomplishments of Towey’s presidency, Timmis cited:
- Over 70% increase in total undergraduate enrollment (fall 2018 headcount is 1,071); the entering class prior to Towey’s appointment was 248 and this year’s was 413 (a record high)
- $80 million raised from donors (none of whom attended AMU); Towey personally cultivated and stewarded over 20 seven-figure gifts
- Successful completion of $60 million “Building on Faith” capital campaign
- New $13 million multi-purpose Prince Building that is paid for and houses AMU’s nursing program and America’s only Mother Teresa Museum
- An increase in the number of majors from 10 to 34
- Successful 10-year reaccreditation through 2025
- Official recognition as a Catholic university
- Faculty-led revision of core curriculum that strengthened AMU’s liberal arts education, and the flourishing of the Honors Program instituted five years ago
Timmis also recognized the difficult but necessary steps Towey took to restructure AMU’s finances and improve campus life, particularly during the early years of his administration when the University faced numerous daunting challenges. These included:
- 2011 budget cut of $3.6 million in spending and the elimination of dozens of positions through an urgent streamlining initiative
- Refinanced AMU’s $57 million debt in 2013 and earned an investment-grade credit rating and “stable outlook” from Standard & Poor’s
- Sold or discontinued costly and unsustainable programs (Nicaragua campus, Institute for Pastoral Theology, and Foundation for the Arts) that had chronic deficits
- Transferred ownership of the iconic Ave Maria town church and Rhodora J. Donahue Academy to the Diocese of Venice
- Reinstituted open door inter-visitation in residence halls to allow more socializing among students without sacrificing Catholic values
- Modernized campus security with new lighting, emergency alerts, and key card systems
Founder of the University and Chancellor Thomas S. Monaghan joined Timmis in commending Towey for his accomplishments. “Building on the base that was established, Jim’s leadership took the University to the next level, and I am grateful,” Monaghan said. “With the capital campaign and the Prince building completed, the curriculum expanded and with record enrollment, it seems like the right time for an orderly transition at the top.”
Towey thanked Timmis, Monaghan and AMU trustees for their unwavering support, and praised the members of the University community for joining him in what he described as “this work of grace that is Ave Maria University.” Towey added, “This isn’t my university or even Tom’s university. This is Our Lady’s University. For the next 20 months I will do all I can to position the next president to raise AMU to new heights.”
Towey pointed to the burnishing of the Catholic identity of Ave Maria as among his most cherished and satisfying achievements. He cited:
- AMU’s successful fight in Federal Court against the Obama administration’s attack on religious liberty; AMU was the first organization to file a lawsuit after President Obama announced his controversial contraceptive services plan in February 2012
- The Mother Teresa service project he founded with a $2 million grant that sends AMU students to her missions in India, Haiti, Mexico, Uganda and other countries, as well as to the poor in Immokalee and care facilities for the elderly in Naples
- The 6 consecutive years he accompanied 12 AMU students on a mission trip to Calcutta (his wife Mary led trips to Port au Prince, Mexico City, and Puerto Rico)
- The 24/7 exposition of the Eucharist he instituted four years ago, last year’s opening of the 100-seat campus chapel with two daily Masses, and the Our Lady of Guadalupe garden and footbridge on the east side of the canal
Student Government Association President Mary Rexroat, a senior, thanked him and Mrs. Towey for their service and good example. “They live their Catholic faith and vocation so beautifully and inspire students to want to imitate them,” she commented. “I am glad we have them with us for a good while longer.”
Timmis expressed optimism when asked about AMU’s future. “I am confident that we will identify the right person who can build on the strong foundation that Towey leaves as his legacy,” he added.
Ave Maria University established its permanent campus near Naples, FL in 2007, and offers its students excellent academics in an authentic Catholic environment with a focus on formative learning to grow the spirit, mind and body. Ave Maria offers a strong liberal arts education with 34 majors, including programs in business, nursing, education, and the arts and sciences. University enrollment consists of approximately 1,100 students from 45 states and 20 countries, and a student body that is approximately 85% Catholic, 25% minority, and evenly-divided between men and women. Ave Maria’s state-of-the-art campus resides on 300 acres in Southwest Florida with the facilities to support all aspects of residency, faith and growth for the entire student body. Tuition and room and board at the University ranks among the most affordable of its peer private schools and is well below the national average.
Ave Maria University Mission: Ave Maria University is a Catholic, liberal arts institution of higher learning devoted to Mary the Mother of God, inspired by St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta, and dedicated to the formation of joyful, intentional followers of Jesus Christ through Word and Sacrament, Scholarship and Service.
For more information on Ave Maria University, visit https://www.avemaria.edu.