September 2021 COVID-19 Update

3 September 2021

Dear Ave Maria University Community,

Today marks the end of the second full week of classes. Our academic year is off to a fantastic start and the campus is brimming with activity.
In 2020-2021, Ave Maria University was one of the few universities in the country to maintain in-person instruction throughout the entire school year. This was due to the diligence of our student body, faculty, and staff, as they executed the University’s Health Safety Plan.
Over the summer, as COVID-19 cases waned, President Ice sent a video message about plans for returning to campus. Within a few weeks of that message, Florida again experienced a spike in the number of COVID-19 positive cases, prompting us to make a few improvements to our protocols, including:

  • Hiring a full-time campus nurse to monitor the number of COVID-19 cases, provide health checks on students who test positive, and help organize meal deliveries to those in isolation
  • Partnering with the Branden Clinic located in Ave Maria at 5068 Annunciation Circle (Suite 111) for free (paid for by the University) rapid Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing. A valid University ID card is all that is required

In addition, during our first week of classes, we updated and disseminated our Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19. We had this PDF appear in the Daily Bulletin, which boasts high readership and engagement. We hope it answers any lingering questions you might have about our protocols. 

As of this morning, Ave Maria University had 10 positive cases on campus. This number is extremely low in proportion to the record number of students (1,303) and our full-time nurse has visited each positive case. However, we are not resting on this number and are prepared to do whatever it takes to keep our campus safe and healthy. 

As a reminder:

  • If a student is symptomatic, they should contact a medical professional, refrain from attending class or work, and self-isolate in their room
  • If a student tests positive for COVID-19, they are expected to follow CDC guidelines for isolating in their residence until:
    • at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared
    • at least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication 
  • Students rooming with a person who tests positive for COVID-19 may be able to move to a room in Xavier Hall during the isolation period if a room is available. You can contact us at Space is limited. 

Please pray an Ave Maria (Hail Mary) for the health of our students, faculty, staff, and the entire AMU community.

Fall 2021 Hurricane Management Update

9 August 2021

Dear AMU Community,

The University has been evaluating and refining its hurricane management.  While the AMU campus is hardened to the extent that structural damage to the buildings themselves is not a concern, a critical issue is loss of electrical power for a considerable length of time. AMU has some electric power generation capability but not enough to keep the campus running normally, in particular the HVAC system. Even a 12-24 hour loss of electrical power to the AMU campus could become a major challenge for maintaining comfortable living conditions in most of the buildings.  

Therefore, we have determined to move away from describing ourselves as a “shelter in place” facility for the purposes of significant hurricane storms. The AMU protocol for approaching storms, when they appear to reach a level of strength at which a power outage is likely, is to wait, watch, and then–no less than 72 hours before the expected arrival of a storm–declare whether there will be an evacuation declaration. In the case of an evacuation, everyone who can leave campus and seek shelter, MUST. Anyone who simply has no place to go (such as international students) can apply for permission to remain on-campus through the storm. The purpose of the 72-hour notification is to allow for an informed judgment to be made about the likely path of the storm without waiting so long that evacuation becomes impossible. 

In choosing to remain on campus during an evacuation order, those given permission should understand:

1) While their physical safety may not be at huge risk, their comfort is not certain.

2) They will not be allowed to continue residing in their dorm rooms but will be moved to a central location.

3) By remaining on campus, they agree to volunteer their labor as part of the work teams preparing for and cleaning up after any storm occurrence.

Of course, there is the real possibility that an evacuation declaration will be issued and then the storm change direction or diminish in size and strength. The University recognizes this possibility—in fact, has experienced it in the past—but nonetheless will always choose “the safe path” when it comes to making these decisions.  

In the event inclement weather poses a real or potential safety threat to the University community, class instruction will be moved to the online modality and continued without interruption. The annual academic calendar will continue to be followed and no instructional time will be lost. Students and faculty will use the Canvas platform, MS Teams, and other online learning resources. If a power outage is anticipated, faculty should distribute instructions, assignments, and projects, so that students can continue to follow the syllabus during the interruption. 

Most AMU campus buildings will be closed and locked in the event of an evacuation declaration.  

At the point of “campus lockdown,” faculty and staff are not allowed to “weather the storm” in their offices or come and go from campus buildings. Students are not allowed to remain in their dormitory rooms and staff housed on campus will also not be allowed to remain in their rooms. Anyone remaining on campus will be moved to a central location and locked out of their dorms or offices.  Undergraduate students will not be allowed to remain in Middlebrooke and must evacuate.  

Staff and graduate students at Middlebrooke are encouraged to evacuate, but if they choose to remain, should understand they do so at their own risk.    

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate these potential storm occurrences. 

The Emergency Management Team 

Fall 2021 COVID-19 Update

5 August 2021

On June 16, 2021, Ave Maria University announced the following COVID-19 protocols for returning to campus for the fall semester.

  • Students will NOT be required to have a test or vaccination for COVID-19 in order to attend AMU in the fall.
  • This also extends to our faculty and staff. We are not requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for anyone to work at AMU. In fact, Florida Governor Ron Desantis signed an Executive Order in April (2021) prohibiting businesses from requiring such passports.
  • Unlike last year, there will be no testing protocols before students enter the dorms. Athletes are scheduled to arrive on August 7, new students on August 19, and returning students on August 21.
  • If a student has a vulnerable health condition and a mask is necessary, they are certainly welcome to wear one, but masks will not be required in any of our classrooms or social settings.
  • All classroom settings will return to their original locations. If you recall, in a conscious effort to help thwart the potential spread of COVID-19, we moved some classes to larger, or even outdoor settings.
  • Hand sanitizing stations will remain simply to help minimize the risk of a future outbreak of COVID-19 or Influenza. It’s also good hygiene. 
  • And finally, AMU reserves the right to return to the previous Health Safety Plan should an outbreak occur. 

Since that communication, the number of cases in the state of Florida and the United States as a whole has taken a significant uptick. As we continue to monitor the situation, the following measures have been adopted to ensure the safety of the entire AMU community. Cooperation with these measures is greatly encouraged and appreciated.


  • If a student is sick, displays symptoms of COVID-19, or has tested positive prior to arriving on campus, please stay home until
    • at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared
    • at least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication 
  • Students arriving late due to illness should contact the Office of Residence Life at

On Campus

  • Students in need of a health evaluation can seek medical advice from any local doctor’s office or clinic. Currently, Lee County is offering FREE 24-hour telehealth.

Students can do pre-COVID-19 screening through this service to determine if testing or other care is needed.

  • Students, faculty, or staff displaying symptoms of COVID-19 can get a rapid Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test at the Braden Clinic, located at 5068 Annunciation Circle (Suite 111) in Ave Maria  Due to a partnership between AMU and the Braden Clinic, these tests will be offered for FREE! A valid University ID card will be required.
  • Students who are symptomatic should contact a medical professional, refrain from attending class or work, and self-isolate in their room
  • If a student tests positive for COVID-19, they are expected to follow CDC guidelines for isolating in their residence until:
    • at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared
    • at least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication 
  • Students rooming with a person who tests positive for COVID-19 may be able to move to a room in Xavier Hall during the isolation period if a room is available. Space is limited. 

Please pray an Ave Maria (Hail Mary) for the health of our students, faculty, staff, and the entire AMU community.

AMU Presidential Update

22 July 2021

Dear Ave Maria University Community,

In early July, the Chairman of Ave Maria University’s Board of Trustees shared the following news with the University community: “[Due to various circumstances, President Christopher P. Ice] has made the decision to step down from his position as President. He has offered his resignation and will serve as a special consultant over the next several months to the Board and the Administration of Ave Maria University. We appreciate Chris’ service to the University and his faithful devotion to Our Blessed Mother, and wish him and his family the very best. I am grateful to share that Dr. Roger Nutt will be serving as interim President.”

Since that time, the University has received many questions about the Board’s plans to replace President Ice. Chairman Rainey anticipates an announcement about the next president before the end of 2021. “The Board is actively pursuing the fourth president of Ave Maria University,” Rainey confirmed, “I am extremely excited about the future of the University, and we look forward to sharing the news at the earliest possible date.” Rainey added that the next president will be “unwaveringly committed to the University’s Catholic identity and mission, and passionate about fulfilling Tom Monaghan’s founding vision.” Rainey went on to cite the University’s record incoming freshmen class, record number of transfer students, record fundraising, and major building initiatives throughout the campus as solid evidence of the University’s growth and optimistic outlook.

In the short-term, Rainey expressed that the Board has the highest confidence in Dr. Roger Nutt as interim president. “Dr. Nutt has served the University with distinction for over 15 years. He’s been a popular theology professor, accomplished researcher and author, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dean of Faculty, and most recently, has served as our Provost.” Dr. Nutt has also previously stepped into the role of interim president, providing much needed leadership during times of transition.

“I am honored to serve in this capacity to ensure Ave Maria University maintains its positive trajectory, but I am not alone. I am blessed and supported by a stellar team of senior administrators, staff and faculty that is the envy of Catholic higher education,” said Nutt.

The Board of Ave Maria University invites all friends and constituencies to stay tuned for future updates and announcements and to consider praying an Ave Maria for Ave Maria University.  

Three Endowed Faculty Chairs Established

12 May 2021

Dear Ave Maria University Community,

I am pleased to announce the University has received a generous donation for the establishment of three endowed faculty chairs. The benefactor, who wishes to remain anonymous, asked that three current members of the faculty who exemplify a commitment to the University’s mission, scholarly excellence, and superlative teaching, be the first appointees to the chairs. The donor also requested the chairs be distributed across disciplines at the University. The names of the chairs memorialize the contributions of three deceased individuals integral to the founding of the University.

The Fr. Matthew L. Lamb Chair of Catholic Theology honors the role of the late Fr. Matthew L. Lamb in the founding of the Patrick F. Taylor Graduate Programs in Theology at Ave Maria University. In 2004, Fr. Lamb left his tenured full professorship at Boston College to join the University as the founding chair of the Theology Department. Dr. Michael Dauphinais, who is currently the chair of the Theology Department and Co-Director of the Aquinas Center for Theological Renewal, has been appointed first holder of the chair. Dr. Dauphinais is an accomplished and widely published Catholic theologian, popular professor, and he served the University sacrificially for over a decade as Dean of Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs. He and Fr. Lamb were close friends and colleagues.

The Ambassador Michael Novak Chair of Politics honors the contributions to the University made by the late Michael Novak as a founding trustee of the University, member of the faculty, and great friend and supporter of the students and faculty. Dr. Seana Sugrue, who currently serves as chair of Politics and director of Pre-Law, has been appointed first holder of the chair. She is an accomplished constitutional scholar, served the University sacrificially as Dean of Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs, and one of the highest rated professors at the University. Dr. Sugrue was a dear friend and colleague of Ambassador Novak’s.

Dr. Paula Ines Castagnet Chair of Biological Sciences honors the contributions of the late Paula Castagnet to the founding of the University and the development of its science programs. A Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Dr. Castagnet was among the first members of the faculty at Ave Maria University. While still a member of the faculty, she passed away from cancer in 2011. Dr. Nicholas Curtis has been appointed the first holder of the chair. Dr. Curtis is the chair of the Biology department, which oversees the majors in Exercise Physiology, Health Science, Marine Biology, Biology, and Environmental Science. The Biology department has enjoyed significant growth under Dr. Curtis’s leadership. He is widely published in the fields of cell and molecular biology.

The establishment of these three academic chairs marks a significant moment in the maturation of Ave Maria University. The University has long enjoyed a reputation for strong academics and a renowned faculty. It was these attributes—the strength of the academics and the faculty—that inspired the donor to make this generous gift. The establishment of these three chairs accentuates the University’s commitment to academic excellence and the cultivation of an academically accomplished, mission-driven, faculty.

Please join me in congratulating Drs. Dauphinais, Sugrue, and Curtis for this remarkable honor.

God Bless,

Christopher P. Ice

Ave Maria University Nursing Program Receives Full Accreditation

28 April 2021

Ave Maria University is pleased to announce its Nursing Program has received full accreditation from the Board of Commissioners at Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

ACEN is one of the leading accreditation bodies in nursing education in the United States, and is devoted to strengthening the quality of nursing education through its review process and rigorous standards.

The successful completion of the process concludes a thorough multi-year evaluation that included a major self-study and site visit to the University. ACEN assesses nursing programs in light of the following six criteria:

  1. Mission and governance
  2. Faculty and staff
  3. Student policies and support structure
  4. Curriculum
  5. Fiscal, physical, and learning resources on the campus
  6. End of Program outcomes and student achievement

In addition, the accreditation is retroactive to the fall of 2019, meaning it not only benefits current and future students, but positively impacts the career of past AMU Nursing program alumni.

Many of the finest graduate programs in Nursing require applicants to have graduated from an ACEN accredited school to be considered for admission, and ACEN accreditation is often necessary for obtaining employment at the strongest health care facilities.

“The successful completion of the accreditation process is not only a major step for our Nursing Program at Ave Maria University,” the University’s Provost, Dr. Roger W. Nutt noted, “it also confirms the excellence and quality of the formation our students receive.”

Ave Maria University’s Nursing program boasts a 100% job placement among alumni and being accredited by one of the most respected national organizations in nursing accreditation lifts the program and University to new heights.

The study of nursing was introduced at Ave Maria University as an extension of its mission to draw upon the resources of a Catholic, liberal arts education to meet societal needs. The formation of professionally excellent healthcare providers trained in Catholic bioethics is most certainly an area of pressing need.

The number of students studying nursing at AMU has grown every year since the program’s inception and AMU is enjoying a growth spurt with spring enrollment reaching a record high despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, which undoubtedly bolstered the attractiveness and quality of the program.

If you’d like more information on Ave Maria University’s Nursing Program contact Katy Thoele @ 239-280-2500 or

President Ice Speaks at Jesuit High School, Tampa, FL

26 April 2021

President Christopher P. Ice spoke at Jesuit High School in Tampa Florida  on Friday, April 16.

Ice offered the daily convocation, a 10-minute pep talk in their chapel which they use to start each school day. There were 450 young men in attendance and another 450 livestreaming from their homerooms.

Check out his message below:

AMU Announces Deanne R. Gipson, Ph.D. as New Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management

14 January 2021

Ave Maria University is pleased to announce the addition of Deanne R. Gipson, Ph.D. as the new associate vice president of enrollment management. Gipson brings a wealth of experience in higher education teaching and staff experience, corporate management, mission-based consulting, as well as, Catholic teaching and evangelization.

“We are excited to have Dr. Gipson become a part of our team at Ave Maria University,” said President Christopher P. Ice. “With her corporate skills and experience in higher education, she’s a wonderful fit and will be a catalyst in moving our enrollment initiatives forward.”

Before joining Ave Maria University, Gipson was a staff member at the University of Notre Dame in the graduate school enrollment management division serving as recruitment strategies program director. Through use of research and data analysis, Gipson helped target recruiting efforts for both virtual and in-person learning. It is these skills Gipson seeks to bring to Ave Maria University to help attract and guide families through the various stages of enrollment.

“My ultimate goal is to help mission-minded students find and fulfill their vocational call,” said Gipson.

When Gipson is not interacting with prospective students and their families, she enjoys a rosary run around campus, attending daily Mass, or spending time in the adoration chapel. She is thrilled to be returning to Florida where she attended college (Rollins College in Winter Park, FL) and worked professionally for over 10 years. Gipson has a strong commitment to family and is one of five siblings. She has one son, a recent graduate of Notre Dame, who is currently performing a year of service before starting his Ph.D. studies in Chemistry at Stanford University.  

Ave Maria University Announces New Building Plans

18 November 2020

The Ave Maria University Board of Directors has approved three new, major building projects designed to enhance and enrich the student experience. These projects include:

  1. An overhaul and reconstruction of Golisano Field House
  2. A new 6,500 square-foot locker room facility
  3. A new outdoor, open-air, multi-court covered basketball facility called Judi’s Gym

The Golisano Field House originally built in 2011 will be replaced by an updated and remodeled facility. It will continue to serve as the home for the basketball and volleyball teams but will also feature a new weight room open to all students as well as serving AMU’s 19 varsity and six junior varsity sports.

“The Golisano Field House has served us well over the past decade. It has been the center of so many activities for our students and great memories for our alumni,” said President Christopher Ice. “The new facility will offer additional features and benefits, and undoubtedly be a place current and future student athletes will be proud to call their home.”

The second major project is a 6,500 square-foot locker room facility for football, baseball, softball, women’s soccer, men’s soccer, and lacrosse. It will be located directly across Kelleher Street from the athletic fields.

“These new buildings will transform the student-athletes’ experience at Ave Maria University,” said Director of Athletics Joe Patterson. “The generosity shown by Ave Maria leadership demonstrates a clear commitment to the AMU student-athlete.”

The third major project is a multi-court covered basketball facility, made possible by a $2 million donation. Judi’s Gym, as it will be known, will be located south of the dormitories, directly across Dolan Street. The final product will eventually house six full-length courts.

The new facility will greatly enhance the recreational space for all students, especially those involved in intramural sports. Additional benefits of having a covered space will enable the university to hold outdoor events at the facility.

The three building projects capture the growth and momentum of Ave Maria University.

In the fall of 2020, AMU welcomed a record number of varsity and junior-varsity athletes to campus. These athletes have produced an unprecedented grade point average (GPA) statistically identical to the rest of the student body. Athletics has had a similar improvement in on-field and on-court performance as 10 of the current 14 varsity sports have achieved a winning record in at least one of the past two years.

Building on this success, Ave Maria University will expand the number of varsity sports offered. Varsity men’s and women’s swimming and diving will be launched immediately with varsity competition slated for fall 2021. Men’s and women’s golf, both of which had been suspended last semester due to budget concerns related to COVID-19, will be reestablished and compete at the varsity level beginning in fall 2021. 

AMU will also formally introduce junior varsity programs in women’s basketball, softball, and men’s soccer, joining the already-established JV programs in men’s basketball, baseball, and women’s soccer.

“Ave Maria University will be coming out of the pandemic stronger than ever,” said Ice. “It’s a testimony to the resiliency of the AMU athletes, coaches, students, and donors.”

New Provost and Other Administrative Updates Announced

Ave Maria University President Christopher Ice has appointed Roger W. Nutt. S.T.L., S.T.D. to the position of Provost effective October 1, 2020. In his new role, Dr. Nutt will work more closely with the president to move the University’s strategic initiatives forward while continuing to absorb the duties of vice president of academic affairs.

“During my leave of absence, Dr. Nutt stepped in as the acting president and did a terrific job handling the day-to-day University affairs,” said Ice. “This solidified my desire to instill the position of Provost. I am excited to have Dr. Nutt work alongside me to progress the many aggressive initiatives we have planned for Ave Maria University.”

Dr. Nutt earned his Bachelor’s of Elective Studies from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota and after a conversion to the Catholic faith, he completed his Masters of Arts in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. In 1999, Nutt was accepted in the doctoral program at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, Italy, where he earned his Bachelor of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.) in 2000 and his Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) in 2002. After successfully defending his Dissertation: “Christus Sacerdos et Mediator: Thomistic Christology and Vatican II’s Call for Theological Renewal,” he earned his Doctorate in Sacred Theology (S.T.D.) in 2005.

Dr. Nutt began his career in 2002 as an instructor of Theology at Aquinas College in Nashville, TN. In 2006, he accepted a position at Ave Maria University as an assistant professor of Theology and was promoted to Associate Professor of Theology in 2009 and later served as the Director of the M.A. Theology program from 2011-17. In addition to his undergraduate teaching, he regularly taught courses in the M.A. and Ph.D. Programs on Thomas Aquinas, Christology, and Sacramental Theology. In 2017, Dr. Nutt was appointed to the position of vice-president of academic affairs.

President Ice also announced other updates in his administration, including appointing Brent Johnson to the new position of executive director of capital projects and facilities operations. Johnson will oversee physical plant and the numerous building projects planned at the University along with handling emergency management while reporting to Chief Financial Officer, Eugene Munin.

The campus bookstore will now be under the leadership of Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Kevin Murphy.

Fr. Rick Martignetti, OFM, will continue as chaplain but now oversee the Mother Teresa Project. He will report directly to President Ice. Michael O’Donnell will continue as the Director of the Mother Teresa Project reporting to Fr. Martignetti.

Ave Maria University is in the process of hiring a new Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management