2019 President’s Dinner and Award Ceremony


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!

Vice President of the United States Mike Pence Speaks at Ave Maria University and Visits Mother Teresa Museum on Campus


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 Preisdent toured the Mother Teresa Museum and gave a speech to students, faculty, and staff.

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. 

For more information on Ave Maria University, visit https://www.avemaria.edu.

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 https://www.avemaria.edu.

CONTACT:  Katy Thoele
Program Manager, Advancement
(239) 280-1565
katy.thoele@avemaria.edu

###

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 https://www.avemaria.edu.

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.

 

Shouldering Responsibility: Aaron Ockenfels (’18) Remembers Experience of Hurricane Irma


 

Aaron Ockenfels, just days away from graduating with a B.A. in Accounting from Ave Maria University, took a break from his studies for an interview that prompted him to reflect back on the last four years, particularly his experience of Hurricane Irma. The graduating senior who grew up on a farm near Wellman, Iowa, was one of five members of the Class of 2018 who were being profiled in the week leading up to graduation. These select five were each nominated 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.

Although not an official member of any club or student organization, Aaron was still actively involved with life on campus and committed to serving the larger community. Every Wednesday he, along with a fellow AMU student, served as a sidewalk counselor outside of the abortion clinic in Naples. Sunday nights would see Aaron assisting with the high school youth ministry at the local parish. Aaron played baseball his junior year and earned Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete honors. He also performed often with his band, Tom MonaBAND & The Dominos (a playful nod to the University’s founder, Tom Monaghan, and the pizza business that made him his fortune). The student band took first place at the annual campus competition, Battle of the Bands, his sophomore and junior years. The other two years, they took second.

Working 12-hour shifts on campus security, Aaron Ockenfels witnessed the community pull together during Hurricane Irma.

Aaron was well-known more generally around campus. He could be seen almost anywhere, at any given time in his position as a campus security guard. It was through his position with security that Aaron had one of his most memorable and unique experiences at Ave Maria University: Hurricane Irma. “Coming from Iowa, where we have tornadoes, Irma was a step up in intensity,” Aaron says. “I worked security leading up to, during, and after Irma. I worked shifts 12 hours on, 12 hours off and stayed in the Student Union with CCSO [Collier County Sheriff’s Office] deputies, EMS, First Responders, and Firefighters.” For his efforts during Hurricane Irma, Aaron received the Meritorious Service Award from President Towey.

Aaron goes on to talk about the intensity of those days, how it brought everyone together and created a bond between everyone who lived through it. “Everyone had stories about Irma,” he explains, “whether they stayed and worked to prepare beforehand, cleaned up the aftermath, or if they traveled somewhere to avoid the hurricane.” Thinking back on his own experience of those days, Aaron was struck by how the entire community pulled together as a team, working toward the same goal “The part I was most impressed with during Irma was the sense of unity and purpose shared by everyone who stayed on campus and worked together,” Aaron shares. “Everyone came together to help out and nobody complained about doing bad jobs or the amount of work that needed to get done.”

Over the summer, Aaron has plans to continue working for his alma mater as a member of Campus Security while he pursues a job as a Customs and Border Protection Officer for the Department of Homeland Security. When asked how AMU contributed to his formation, Aaron says it challenged him, academically, spiritually, and socially. “It really helped me working with others and working in groups,” he says, “as well as personal responsibility for making sure deadlines are met and things are taken care of.“

Many thanks to Aaron as he continues to serve the campus community of Ave Maria University and congratulations on being named a President’s Award finalist. Best of luck navigating the adventure ahead!

Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor John Zambo (’18) Committed to Life of Service


“Personally, being at Ave Maria has given me hope and encouragement for life,” reflects Wisconsin-native John Zambo. “It has always been a major gift to be here, and I try to share the hope and joy that being at Ave Maria has given me with everybody else.”

John departs from AMU on May 5th alongside his fellow members of the Graduating Class of 2018. On April 22nd, John was announced 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.  

During his time at AMU, John was in the Honors Program, a Mother Teresa Scholar, and involved with the AEI on Campus Executive Council. In terms of his campus involvement, he was a member of the Fishers of Men faith household, the Investment Club, and Students for Life. Academically, he is a five-time Dean’s List recipient–an impressive number for someone who suffered a severe traumatic brain injury during his college career.

The summer after John’s freshman year at AMU, he was in a car accident that caused his traumatic brain injury from which doctors said he would not survive. After a miraculous recovery, John returned to school the Fall of the following year. “For a long time after I suffered my traumatic brain injury, I had the feeling that the only reason that God kept me alive was to give His love and His mercy to everyone that I encountered,” he shares. “I felt that I was alive to give my life, which is a huge gift, back to everyone around me as a gift. I felt like that’s why He let me come back to Ave. So that’s what I try to do every day,” he goes on. “And Ave Maria is a great environment for me to be able to practice that.”

After a miraculous recovery, John Zambo is committed to living a life of service.

John is eager to devote his life in service to others. He expresses how his time at Ave Maria University, especially his involvement with the Mother Teresa Project, helped him practice the life of service that he desires to live, but also how, professionally speaking, AMU has helped him discover a career that allows him to use his talents to serve. John elected to earn a bachelor’s degree in Managerial Economics and Strategic Analysis because he loves exercising the skills that go along with it: critical analysis, logical reasoning and deduction, and strategic planning. But also, a career in finance affords John the opportunity to help others use their money well, and by doing so, become better persons. “I would love to be a financial planner from a Catholic perspective,” he explains, “so I can build relationships with people and help them use their money well to meet their goals and grow to become better people.”

John received an internship with Macke Financial Advisory Group, an opportunity which he credits to the resources available at AMU. “Career Services has helped me with my resume, job hunting, and interviewing,” he says. In the future, he hopes to land a starting job in the field of finance, and eventually, to become a financial planner. Until then, he continues to work hard, trust in God’s will, and live a life of serving others. “We will see what happens,” John states, “but I am just trying to do my best every day and I will see where God has me end up.”

Congratulations to John on his outstanding achievements at AMU over the last four years, and for earning yet another honor by being named a President’s Award finalist. We wish him the best of luck as he prepares for graduation!

Future Physician Elizabeth Cox (’18) Reflects on Her AMU Education


“The most unique experience I had with AMU was volunteering in the Dominican Republic for 10 days at a children’s home,” recalls graduating senior Elizabeth Cox. “It was incredibly inspiring to witness the pure joy of each child, regardless of their poverty and background.” Going on, Elizabeth shares: “This mission trip motivated me to pursue medicine, knowing that I had the potential to make a difference in global health.”

Elizabeth will walk across the stage at Ave Maria University’s Commencement Exercises on May 5th to receive her diploma for a Bachelor’s Degree in Biochemistry. She says she chose this major because she has a long-standing interest in the chemical processes that underlie human physiology. She chose AMU because of the unique education it affords. “I knew that I would have a chance to become a well-rounded student through the core curriculum,” Elizabeth explains. “I also found the small faculty-to-student ratio very appealing because I sincerely value relationships with my mentors and professors.”

Elizabeth Cox is Vice President of the Biochemistry Club, and President of Students Against Domestic Violence. She is also an Easton Campaign Scholar, an academic scholarship for students from South Florida (Elizabeth hails from Miami, FL). More recently, she earned the high honor of being named one of five finalists for the President’s Award, which recognizes a graduating senior’s academic accomplishments, involvement in the life of the University, service to others, and exemplification of AMU’s highest Catholic ideals.  

Elizabeth’s commitment to her academic life has immediate fruit; she will be attending University of Florida School of Medicine in Fall 2018. “I am humbled to call myself a future physician,” she says.

AMU has helped Elizabeth Cox deepen her spiritual life and has equipped her for a future in medicine.

Reflecting further on her time at Ave Maria University, Elizabeth is grateful for the opportunities she received to integrate her Catholic faith with her studies. “It has helped me grow as a person, and has motivated me to reach for spiritual success,” she shares. But it would be remiss not to include specific mention of the role her professors have played in shaping Elizabeth’s professional aspirations. “I have had an opportunity to conduct research in HIV-1 and Alzheimer’s Disease under their supervision and guidance, and this kindled my interest in scientific inquiry,” Elizabeth states. “Because of the research experience I have had at AMU, I hope to pursue clinical research as a future physician.”

We wish Elizabeth the best of luck as she heads to medical school, and congratulate her on being nominated as a President’s Award finalist!