News Archives – Ave Maria University
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Co-Chair of the Congressional Pro-life Caucus Dan Lipinski to speak at 15th Ave Maria University Commencement on May 4, 2019

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. 

For more information on Ave Maria University, visit

University’s Statement on InsideHigherEd Article and Raiger/Gruber Lawsuit

AVE MARIA, FL (January 30, 2019) Statement on Article and Michael Raiger Lawsuit

The recent 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 story – – 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 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 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 University Rated #1 Private University In Florida in Best College and University Rankings

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

CONTACT:  Katy Thoele
Program Manager, Advancement
(239) 280-1565


John Towey, Published by James Madison Institute

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.

Structural Reform for Next Generation Prosperity

Jim Towey to step down as president of Ave Maria University in 2020

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

National Coverage of Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos’ Address to Ave Maria University Class of 2018

We were honored that Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, chose Ave Maria University to deliver her only Commencement speech for a graduating class of 2018. Her visit to our campus received national coverage. Visit the links below to read each article. published the full transcript of Secretary DeVos’ prepared address in which she encouraged our students to “go for greatness.”

Additional articles published by and recognized Ave Maria University for greeting Secretary DeVos with a standing ovation.

Watch the video of President Towey’s eloquent introduction of Secretary DeVos and her full address to the graduating class of 2018.


Secretary DeVos Receives a Standing Ovation from Ave Maria University


The Honorable Betsy DeVos chose Ave Maria University to deliver her only Commencement speech for a graduating class of 2018. The ceremony took place on Saturday, May 5th. This was the largest class to graduate from the University since its founding, with 232 bachelor’s degree recipients, ten Masters of Arts in Theology, and five Doctors of Philosophy in Theology.

Secretary DeVos was well received by the audience and students, earning a standing ovation following her 20-minute speech. Her speech focused on service to others and the teachings of the Saints who inspire Ave Maria University most, Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Saint Pope John Paul II. She also advised graduates to “embrace the mess.” She said, “Know that your life won’t always unfold according to plan. Anticipate being called to something different, to something unexpected. Be not afraid!” 

Many graduates commented that they thoroughly enjoyed hearing Secretary DeVos’ speech. Following the ceremony, Secretary DeVos took the opportunity to meet with students and their families outside for photos. Student volunteers of the Mother Teresa Museum on campus, the only museum in honor of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta in the United States, provided Secretary and Mr. DeVos a tour before they ended their day at Ave Maria University.

The graduating class of 2018 was blessed to have such a dynamic and influential speaker for their Commencement ceremony.  We look forward to sharing with you what our graduates do next!

Who Are the Graduates of the Class of 2018?


Ave Maria University’s graduating class of 2018 is a group of 247 devoted scholars, diverse in their passions and hobbies, but united in loyalty to their new alma mater. While most students completed their bachelor’s degree, ten students earned a Masters of Art in Theology, and five received a Doctors of Philosophy in Theology. This was Ave Maria’s largest graduating class to date.  These graduates are capable, inspired, and ready to show the world what an Ave Maria University graduate can do! We are delighted to share a few success stories from the class of 2018.


Valeria’s Story

Valeria Tkacik graduated with her degree in Politics. If that wasn’t enough, she double minored in Environmental Science and Theology. While on campus, Valeria was an accomplished student, both in academics and athletics. Despite being born without a left arm, she was an outstanding member of the women’s lacrosse team, an accomplishment which serves as an incredible testament to her tenacity and drive. She spent her time at Ave Maria training, praying with her sisters in her household, the Sisterhood of Mary Magdalene, and playing an active role in Student Government Association. While Valeria’s plans continue to unfold, she is excited for her next adventure.


Breanna’s Story

Breanna Backstrom double majored in Psychology and Health Science. During her time at Ave Maria, Breanna served as treasurer for the Apologetics club, an on-campus organization that strives to educate students in the art of justifying the multiple aspects of one’s faith. During her junior and senior year, she spent her free time tutoring local high school students in math and science. Ultimately, she discovered her calling through an internship at the Naples Community Pregnancy Clinic. She found her work in the pro-life field to be so fulfilling that she chose to pursue the ministry after graduation. Since graduation, she has relocated to South Bend, Indiana, where she will work as a counselor for the Women’s Care Center.


Nick’s Story

The graduating class of 2018 at Ave Maria University had its first seven students graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing, and Nick Root was one of them. His accomplishments in high school provided him the opportunity to receive the Kazma Leadership Scholarship, a highly competitive scholarship sought after by many students. Having discovered firsthand what a blessing a scholarship could be, he decided to help other students have the same opportunity. For the past two years, Nick worked in the Office of Advancement as a student caller and Lead Philanthropy Specialist in the Phone Center, raising scholarship funds for students in need. Since graduation, Nick has become a full-time Advancement Associate for the University.

By: Johnnie Eagan, ‘19

Hunter Rose (’18) Finds Ave’s Challenge to Say “Yes” Prepared Him Well

Hunter Rose (’18) Finds Ave’s Challenge to Say “Yes” Prepared Him Well

Hunter Rose chose AMU because he was looking for a return on his investment. “The school was and has remained affordable over my four years and has offered exceptional value for the cost incurred,” the senior majoring in Finance and Managerial Economics & Strategic Analysis explains as he prepares for graduation on May 5th. Another motivation for attending AMU was the opportunity to play college ball. “The thought of playing baseball outside in the winter months without a hint of snow…made my decision a rather easy one,” he says.

Hailing from Kalamazoo, Michigan, Hunter decided to add Finance as a second major because of a desire “to be challenged above the norm,” and a chance encounter his Sophomore year. He vividly recalls his first real exposure to investment: “I was sitting down in the Canizaro Library next to [a fellow AMU student] who was trading on Robinhood, a free investment platform solely used on smartphones.” At this point, Hunter wasn’t even familiar with the basics of trading. What is a stock? He asked his friend. Why do the prices change every minute? “Shortly after that experience, I declared Finance as my second major and sought to answer every one of those questions that I had,” he explains.

During his four years at AMU, Hunter was President of the Investment Club, Chairman of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Executive Council, and Co-Chair of the President’s Circle. He is also a CFA Society of Naples Scholarship Recipient, a member of the Sigma Beta Delta Business Honors Society, an Honors College Scholar, and a Dean’s List student. Adding to this list of accomplishments, he was recently nominated as one of the five finalists for the President’s Award, the highest honor bestowed upon a graduating senior of Ave Maria University in recognition of academic accomplishments, involvement in the life of the University, service to others, and exemplification of AMU’s highest Catholic ideals.  

Through his campus involvement, Hunter Rose found his calling, and the tools he needs, to pursue a career in business.

A highlight during his time at AMU was the opportunity for Hunter to attend a meet-and-greet with Dr. Arthur Brooks, President of AEI. “He shared intriguing details of his friendship with the Dalai Lama, above all things,” Hunter recalls. Through his involvement with AEI on campus, Hunter had the opportunity to attend multiple intercollegiate conferences, the high point being the AEI Values & Capitalism Conference on entrepreneurship in Seattle, WA, this past fall. “This unique weekend program provided me with an opportunity to interact with rising Christian business leaders from universities throughout the United States,” he explains, “learning together how business can cultivate the conditions necessary for true human flourishing.” Going on, Hunter says that this experience confirmed in his mind the desire to pursue a career in business.

After graduation, Hunter has accepted a position as a Mutual Funds Analyst at State Farm’s corporate headquarters in Bloomington, IL. There, he explains, he will have the opportunity to help hundreds of thousands of people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their dreams. He expresses a desire to serve his community with his talents beyond work. “Apart from my work at State Farm,” he shares, “I plan on serving as a business plan advisor for the Prison Entrepreneurship Program and participating in my new community by volunteering at my new local parish.”

Ave Maria University challenges its students to say “yes” to new experiences and opportunities.

Reflecting on his time at AMU, how the past four years have served to shape him, both professionally and personally, Hunter muses on the University’s name. “It’s rather fitting that Ave Maria University is named after the woman who said yes to God,” he reflects. “I say this, because this is exactly what Ave Maria University asks of her students: to say yes.” Going on to explain, he says, “Ave has a unique way of helping students to become aware of God’s will and challenging them to say yes to it. This has been my experience at AMU, and I feel all the more equipped for my professional life having cultivated an awareness and willingness to say yes.”

Congratulations on being nominated as a President’s Award finalist, Hunter, and best of luck as you pursue life after graduation!


Katie Ligday (’18): Flourishing with an Ave Maria University Education

Katie Ligday (’18): Flourishing with an Ave Maria University Education

When Katie Ligday, a graduate of the Class of 2018, reflects back on her time at Ave Maria University, growth emerges a common theme. From her discernment of where to attend college, to her choice of a major, to her campus involvement, Katie’s reflections reveal that she was motivated, pushed, and inspired to grow as a person during her four years at Ave Maria.

As a high school student from St. Mary’s County, Maryland, Katie chose to attend Ave Maria because it was a place where she knew she would flourish and thrive. “I knew…I would grow academically, spiritually, socially, and physically,” she recalls. “I would grow as a whole person. I knew Ave Maria was going to help me become the person God intended me to be.”

Katie entered as a Theology major, with a love for her classes and a passion to learn more about God. “I wanted to grow in my knowledge of Him,” she says simply. When she realized she possessed strong organizational and administrative skill sets, she decided to add a minor in Business Administration. “I discovered that a lot of my talents could be applied to administrative work,” she explains. “It also broadened my skills for potential jobs!”

When she was not pursuing studies, Katie was actively involved in campus life. She was a member of the Daughters of God Household, and served the female students as a Resident Assistant in the residence halls. She regularly attended bible studies, was the Activities Coordinator for Ave for Life (a pro-life club on campus), ran with the Life Runners, and served as a Student Representative for the University’s Strategic Planning Committee.  Katie was also a recipient of the Leadership Scholarship. As a crowning honor, Katie received the President’s Award; the highest honor bestowed upon a graduating senior in recognition of academic accomplishments, involvement in University life, service to others, and exemplification of the University’s highest Catholic ideals.

Over the last four years at Ave Maria University, Katie Ligday says she was challenged to grow into the person God intended her to be.

“My experience at Ave Maria has been such an amazing one!” she exclaims. “Each semester was filled with new ways to grow and learn about myself. My time here has shaped me personally through time spent in prayer, building relationships with incredible people–students, professors, and staff–and the countless opportunities.” When asked to select one experience as a highlight during her time at Ave Maria, Katie recalled the mission trip to Calcutta, where she served alongside the Missionaries of Charity. “I will never forget this experience,” she states. “I learned how to love in a new way: through action, sacrifice, and silence.”

Looking to the future with joy, Katie will be celebrating her marriage to fellow classmate, Jeffrey Henkel, this summer. After their wedding, the couple plans to settle in Augusta, Georgia.

Congratulations to Katie on her accomplishments over the past four years, and for receiving the 2018 President’s Award.