AMU Adds Major in Marine Biology

Students looking to major in Marine Biology now have that opportunity at Ave Maria University.

“We’re in a very unique location,” says Dr. Nicholas Curtis, Assistant Professor of Biology and chair of the department. Ave Maria University is located less than 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. Directly South of campus lie the Ten Thousand Islands, and just beyond that, the Florida Keys. We are adjacent to Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and more. “We have access to unique marine and ecological environments which can really only be experienced in Southwest Florida,” Dr. Curtis explains. “We decided to take advantage of our location.”

Starting spring 2018, the Department of Biology will offer courses for the Marine Biology (B.S.) major and minor. These new courses, such as General and Chemical Oceanography (BIO 310), and Animal Physiology (BIO 403), will explore the environment and how it interacts with fisheries and oceans. “Students who study Marine Biology at Ave Maria University,” Dr. Curtis says, “will receive a strong core in science and, within that, a focus on the marine environment.”

Who might study Marine Biology? For starters, anyone interested in teaching, research, or industry consulting in the fields of marine biology or marine ecology will benefit from this new major. Likewise, students who seek government employment in the National Park Service or Fish and Wildlife Service will find that the comprehensive Marine Biology major is designed to meet their needs.

In the words of Robert Wyland, renowned marine life artist, “The world’s finest wilderness lies beneath the waves.” What are you waiting for? Check out the Major in Marine Biology today!

How to Make a Fortune and Not Lose Your Soul

“We’re all called to be leaders,” Mike Timmis, Sr, said to a room full of students during his talk at AMU on November 13th. “I’m trying to be the type of leader that my family would be proud of, but most importantly, who Jesus would be proud of.”

Mr. Timmis led a successful career as an attorney and businessman. He served on the board of Prison Fellowship International for over twenty years, traveled the world with his wife, Nancy, ministering to the poor and disadvantaged, and is a notable leader in the Catholic and evangelical communities. While he was on campus, Mr. Timmis spoke to students about his own experience of balancing a successful career while staying true to his beliefs.

One of the things Mr. Timmis emphasized was the importance of leadership. He listed some of the qualities of a leader that were integral to his success as a businessman, such as accountability, approachability, generosity, confidence, and passion. He then pointed out that these traits were all demonstrated by Jesus in the Gospels. Mr. Timmis’ meaning was clear: being a successful leader is compatible with a life of virtue.  

Perhaps the quality most relevant to college students that Mr. Timmis discussed is that of problem-solving in the face of difficulty. There is always a temptation for students to procrastinate when faced with a difficult task, say, writing a paper, or studying for a test. “You have to conquer it,” Mr. Timmis encouraged the students gathered. “Problems are like fruit–they ripen.” He went on to explain how developing the fortitude to conquer a difficult task yields a twofold fruit. First, it is a way to increase trust in God, remembering He stands by their sides in the face of adversity. Second, mastering the discipline of tackling a problem head-on and learning how to solve it will push them forward in their studies, and later, in their careers, leading to greater success in life and, ultimately, greater happiness.   

Mr. Timmis closed his remarks by commenting on how well the education at Ave Maria University–an education that includes lessons in humility, work ethic, and spirituality– is preparing its students to be successful in their careers and as leaders.  “You’ll be a leader if you embrace what Ave really stands for!” he said.“ If you have passion, people will follow you anywhere. Trust yourself and trust that God is with you.”

For his own part, Mr. Timmis ascribes all his success to Christ. He doesn’t pray for wealth or success, but rather for the ability to follow God’s Will.  



Goin’ to the Chapel

Final preparations are underway before the official opening of Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel! Bishop Frank J. Dewane of the Diocese of Venice came to campus to celebrate Mass and bless the chapel in early November, and the doors are set to open next semester.  

The Ave Maria University community has a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin, particularly in her manifestation as Our Lady of Guadalupe. In fact, just over a year ago Bishop Dewane was on campus to preside over the dedication of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Prayer Garden. When the time came to name the new chapel opening up in Xavier Hall, the Director of Mission Outreach, Scott King, who played an integral role in the design and oversight of the chapel, says the example of Our Lady stood out. “We prayed to determine how to name the chapel,” Mr. King explains, “and we all kept coming back to Our Lady of Guadalupe-and President Towey loved that idea.  

The new chapel’s beautiful simplicity is modeled after the chapels in Missionary of Charity houses all over the world.  The only adornments on these chapels’ bare walls are a crucifix and the words “I Thirst.”  Inspired by the practices of the Missionaries of Charity, and out of devotion to St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, AMU’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel aims to create an environment free from distraction, fostering among the students true contemplation and prayer.

Construction on the new chapel began over the summer. Once the doors are open, Mass will be offered daily in the evenings on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and in the mornings on Thursday and Friday. “We want to give the students an opportunity to attend Mass on campus every day,” Scott explains, “and the homilies are going to be geared completely to our students by our priests.”  Opportunities for confession will precede daily Mass, and Praise and Worship will be held on Wednesdays as well.  

With seating room for almost 130 people, the new chapel will afford many opportunities for retreats, holy hours, and various spiritual activities.Students and staff alike are looking forward to a new place of worship that incorporates the University’s devotions to Our Lady and Saint Teresa of Calcutta.  

History Made with the Crowning of the First Ever “Mr. Gyrene”

On November 11, 2017, eight of AMU’s finest male students showcased their talents, personalities, quirks, and humors in a contest designed to discover the first ever Mr. Gyrene of Ave Maria University. It was a battle of wits, manliness, and ingenuity, as well as a battle for crowd appeal. Making Ave history, this event was driven by the student-led Student Activities Board who decided to take an idea and make it happen, hence the Mr. Gyrene Pageant became a reality! As the eight men competed for the title, they participated in several rounds of competition. These included an introductory video of each contestant, a personality interview with the two student hosts, a showcase of each individual contestant’s talent, a competition of wit, and a sandwich making competition.

The three female student judges, Sarah Seghers, Rachel Wisely, and Valeria Tkacik were armed with both compliments and criticism. They observed the talent and abilities of the eight men in order to judge which of them was most deserving of the title. One contestant gave someone a haircut in under five minutes and another ate an apple while juggling. Others showcased their talents by lip syncing, playing the piano and even leading the childhood game of Duck Duck Goose. The crowd was thoroughly entertained!

By the end of the second to last round, the judges had narrowed the competition to two remaining contestants – senior, Philip Rhein, and junior, Steve Wagner. The student crowd shouted their approval! It was time for the audience to decide who would be crowned. Both finalists were asked to artfully create a classic Ave Maria sunset. Both produced a unique canvas and the crowd voted.

Mr. Gyrene was named, crowned, and praised: Mr. Steve Wagner.

He was designated to be the first student to represent the University’s mascot and symbol.

What is a Mr. Gyrene? To quote the President of SAB, senior Marisa Helms, “Mr. Gyrene is a young man on campus who best exemplifies Ave as a school. Our hopes for this competition is that everyone on campus can look to Mr. Gyrene as a leader and friend.” The success of this event opens the door for future Mr. Gyrenes to be crowned in the years to come.

Ave Maria University has a campus full of exceptional men who represent values that the University holds dear. It is safe to say that although there can only be one crowned Mr. Gyrene, there is certainly more than one man on campus who deserves such a title. This can be seen clearly in the other seven contestants who were equipped with pure talent, strong character, and great personality. The pageant provided a great opportunity for students to come together and watch their friends and classmates compete with good humor and in the spirit of fun.

A new tradition has begun!


Oh, What a (Jersey) Night!

SAB, Student Activities Board, knows that the best way to get students through the week is for them to have discounted beer in hand and football on TV. With the Seahawks and the Cardinals on Thursday Night Football, students gathered in their favorite jerseys at the Oil Well Craft Brewery to celebrate the upcoming weekend. With names on their backs from “Namath” to “Brady”, students listened to live music, sang karaoke, played cornhole, and forgot about homework for a couple hours in homey Oil Well, enjoying fun brews like Rocky Road stout and Bourbon Barrel. The comfy couches, the card games, and the popcorn make the brewery the perfect place to catch up with friends, expand your beer palette, and just relax!

Gyrene Spirit at Pep Rally

This past Wednesday, students rallied in the breezeway to paint up and party like a saint for the Pep Rally. While music was blaring, students were knocking on other students’ dorms to get them to come out and join the festivities. As people were getting ready to show their Gyrene spirit, the cheerleaders led the charge from the breezeway to the gym, while the crowd followed chanting different cheers.

Once people were filing into the gym, the Gyrene spirit kept increasing from there. Free t-shirts were passed out while students sang “Sweet Caroline” at the top of their lungs. The cheerleaders led the students with more cheers to get everyone ready for the pep rally.

The pep rally began with the faculty relay with Ave’s favorite professors attempting to do ten dizzy bats and then scoring a soccer goal, making a layup, and hitting a baseball. Students roared with laughter as they witnessed professors and coaches trying to run to each event while trying not to fall over. The next event was tug of war between the residence halls. Students battled to see who was the strongest dorm. After all the fun and excitement from the games, the pep rally concluded with ice cream. The pep rally was a great event to see everyone’s Gyrene Spirit!

The Runnin’ Gyrenes Host the Sun Conference Championships

Bright and early on November 4, this past Saturday morning, Ave Maria University hosted the Sun Conference Cross Country Championships, the first Cross Country Meet ever to be on Ave Maria University’s campus! Junior Marie Mullally had great things to say about the meet and the sport after she finished racing.

Q: How did it feel to finally race at Ave Maria?

A: Racing at Ave was amazing! Having so many students show up and support us was incredible.

Q: Why do you run cross country? Especially since most people hate running!

A: I run cross country because of how it makes me feel.  The feeling you get after racing as hard as you can and knowing that you gave it your all is unbelievable.  Running cross country just makes you so much more mentally strong.

Q: Did you have any specific goals you wanted to achieve this season?

A: This season my main goal was to give 100% at every race and be happy with the result even if it wasn’t what I wanted.  Starting the season with an injury made this difficult, but in the end I was happy with how I finished the season!

Q: What makes being a Gyrene unique?

A: I think what makes being a Gyrene unique is the people and the community.  The cross-country team specifically is so close.  We’re all like a big family who are constantly supporting one another and pushing each other to be better!

Congratulations to the hard-working runners who gave their all this weekend!

Party Like a Saint at the Feast of All Saints

“Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep and a glass of wine!”  Saint Thomas hit the nail on the head with that one. At the annual All Saints’ Day Feast, Ave students got an extra hour of sleep while sharing a meal with friends, enjoying the beautiful “winter” weather, and listening to live music.  With finals and 15-page papers looming in the distance, the camaraderie and cheer of the feast was a much-needed break from the sorrows of schoolwork.  All Saints’ Day is such a wonderful feast to celebrate, because it reminds us of the holiness we are all called to attain.  Mother Angelica said, “If you’re breathing and you’ve got two legs, you’re called to holiness.”  This point can’t be emphasized enough– God wants us all to be great saints, and He gave us the saints as models to follow in this beautiful lifelong endeavor.  We are especially reminded to emulate the saints’ holiness on this feast day, but we are also reminded that we need to rejoice in their love and in God’s love for us!

Of course, holiness is a top priority for Catholics, but that certainly doesn’t mean we can’t kick up our heels!  Featuring student-led bands, Tom Monaband and the Dominos and the Jon Babineau Trio, the feast included the student body dancing and singing into the night with great food, which kept everyone full and happy.  Students, professors, and families all gathered in the outdoor amphitheater to celebrate the joy and sacrifice of the saints that we are all called to incorporate into our lives.

Students Represent Ave at Princeton

This past weekend from October 27-29, six Ave Maria University students represented the University and attended the Sexuality, Integrity, and the University conference by the Love and Fidelity Network at Princeton University. Two of these students, Sarah Gardy and Ariel Aguilar, represented the Anscombe Society and the other four, Clare Littleton, Adrienne Conley, Brenna Nelson, and Christina VonTersch, represented the University’s newspaper, the Gyrene Gazzette.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the SIU conference at Princeton which aims to unite a variety of students, specialists, and intellectuals from all over the country to prepare leaders who can stand up for the traditional values of marriage, family, and sexual integrity in a society that no longer treasures these values. Campus culture across the country is negatively influenced by a variety of factors, including some of the most threatening ones of all; ones which do not support the value of each and every life but rather, promote selfishness and immorality. The SIU conferences have been working hard to prepare students from across the country to return to their campuses and work to promote the value and sanctity of human life in all its forms. Societal influences are ferociously attacking the foundations of marriage and family life by supporting the hook-up culture which damages the Christian values that promote true respect for others, openness to life, and integrity. Students at the conference are motivated, educated, and inspired to become advocates for the truth and for love and fidelity.

Ave Maria University students had a tremendous opportunity at the Princeton conference to socialize with other students who are like-minded and driven, share similar values and goals, and encounter similar challenges in the world today. The last talk of the conference was given by Sherif Girgis, J.D., a research scholar of the Witherspoon Institute who presented concrete ways for students to move forward as honest witnesses for love and fidelity. One of his suggestions for a student who may encounter opposing views in his or her quest to spread the truth was to “act like a friend and care for the other unconditionally.” This suggestion embodies the strategy that the students will use while being proponents of love. In order to open up others’ minds and hearts, one must first open up one’s own. In a world where there are so few individuals partaking in the fight for life, it becomes a challenge to find ways to unite together to make a countercultural difference. The conference at Princeton aims to provide a solution to this challenge by allowing students who otherwise may never have encountered one another to meet and form connections that can serve to help them in the future.

The six women who represented Ave Maria University were given a brilliant chance to converse with and hear stories from students of Universities such as Harvard University, Yale University, Georgetown University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Catholic University of America, to name a few. This allowed the six Ave Maria students to view the problems campuses face as a whole with a more informed outlook equipped them to better understand some of the more prominent issues and ways in which like-minded students from these Universities have started to address campus trends that oppose love and fidelity and the traditional views on faith, marriage, and family life. Now, joining the ranks of two thousand other students who have attended this conference, the attendees of the 2017 Princeton Conference on Sexuality, Integrity, and the University are even more prepared to stand up for the values they hold dear. In the words of Sherif Girgis, J.D., “It is best never to begin an argument without sheer confidence, serenity, and love.”

Mozart’s Comic Opera “Il Impresario”

The diva wars have never changed!” Vocal coach and pianist Isabella Aubin explains the dramatic plotline of the Music Department’s rendition of Mozart’s comic opera, “Il Impresario.”  Originally composed in 1786, this brief but humorous story follows Madame Goldentril, played wonderfully by Eileen Plunkett, a shining opera star who is frustrated and wants to make some changes before the next season opens.  However, a wrench is thrown in her plans when Miss Silverpeal, played by Therese Brown, barges in announcing that she wants to be the ‘prima donna’ in the next performance as well.  A duel ensues between these two divas, each vying with tremendous sass for the lead role and showcasing their extraordinary musical talent.  After much back and forth with Mr. Vogelsang, played by Matteus Bressan, who is helplessly caught in the middle, the two young ladies come to realize that as artists, they must put their work above all else and strive to create beautiful art rather than petty complaints.  The moral of the story was that “while all artists seek recognition, selfish ambition devalues even the finest artist,” which was eventually realized by the two young stars.

Although originally written in German as a “singspiel,” which means singing and playing, “Il Impresario” was wonderfully transformed to fit the modern day by director Michael Pinkerton.  Contemporary dress was used to show that even though the times have changed, the people have remained relatively the same– performers are never going to lose their competitive spirit and love for their art, which was emphasized by Madame Goldentril and Miss Silverpiel singing in German yet wearing modern garb.  Mr. Pinkerton is exceedingly well-known in the musical world, being a singer himself, as well as an actor, coach, director, producer, and administrator.  At the Music and Arts University in Vienna, he established an Opera Studies program, and has pioneered much of theatre training in Europe.  Mr. Pinkerton has directed over 60 operas of all sorts, and he is well-known for producing lively and vivid performances, which “Il Impresario” clearly reflected.  He currently resides in Austria with his wife, and Ave Maria University was beyond blessed for the opportunity to collaborate with him.  The talent on campus here at Ave Maria is extraordinary– it is absolutely delightful to listen to the songs and to witness the acting that Eileen, Matteus, and Therese, accompanied by Cassie Schultz, Robert Gotschall, and John Pettingill, are capable of and through which they excel.