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.        

Ave Maria University Rated #3 In Florida in Best College and University Rankings

AVE MARIA, Fla. (October 30, 2017) — Ave Maria University announced today that it has been ranked 3rd among Florida universities by the personal-finance website WalletHub, which released its 2018’s Best College & University Rankings. Only the University of Florida and the University of Miami fared better among the state’s private and public institutions, and Ave Maria also was identified as the best Catholic university in the southern United States, and among the top five nationally.  The criteria used by WalletHub in evaluating nearly 1,000 colleges and universities nationally included 26 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 21st in the southern United States and 106th 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,” Towey added.

Ave Maria University established its permanent campus near Naples 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 85% 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


Faith & Medicine; Practicing with Morality

Jeffery Simpson, a senior at Ave Maria University, recently invited students on campus to attend his Resident Assistant project entitled “Faith, Surgery and Socialized Healthcare.” The event featured speaker Dr. Lazarou, who traveled from Athens, Greece to address Ave Maria students in the lecture hall.

Lazarou is an exceptional, but humble doctor. His skills, deep appreciation for all human life, and ability to marry his faith to his work always benefit his patients. Any other surgeon equipped with twenty years of experience, a degree from John Hopkins University, the University of Maryland Medical School, a three-year residency program in plastic and reconstructive surgery at a top ten program in Norfolk, and a fellowship at the University of Pittsburg would surely be a boastful, wealthy man. That is not the case with Lazarou.

He opened his talk by humbly stating that he has “no employees, no records” and that he is unaware which patients have paid or have yet to pay him for his services. If his methods sound unconventional, it’s because they are. He does not operate in accordance with the societal norm, but through “the Eucharist.” Dr. Lazarou’s “experience of Him who is love,” has become his “personal law of daily life.” With Christ as his compass, his professional life is geared towards forging intimate relationships with his patients, rather than attaining wealth.

Dr. Lazarou’s private practice operates in Greece, where there is no private insurance; patients directly pay doctors in cash. Lazarou notes that there is a “different dynamic when discussing payment directly with a patient face-to-face.” This interaction is why he does not hold his patients to an exact amount for a cleft lip procedure, for example. Rather, he simply states “give me what you can.” Dr. Lazarou smiles slightly noting that he is sometimes paid in chicken or fish.

His nonexistent desire for monetary gain points to one of his deeper truths: an understanding of the intrinsic dignity of all life, including that of the unborn. He recounts a particular consultation with a distraught husband and pregnant mother whose baby had been diagnosed with a cleft lip. The husband exclaimed “tell me if this kid is going to be happy because we have to make a decision today!” Lazarou calmly replied “if you think the meaning of life is happiness you’re going to kill a lot of people in your life.” A few months later the couple named their healthy child after Dr. Lazarou. This serves as just one of the countless instances in which Lazarou offers Christ’s truth to his patients firmly, but free of judgement.

“All of these things I say to you as a father to his children,” states Lazarou, as the presentation draws to a close.  He goes on to encourage the group to “guard your hearts” even in the medicinal field, in which the pursuit of money blinds many. He emphasizes the importance of giving one’s heart to none but the Lord. Finally, Dr. Lazarou leaves the students gathered within the hall one final thought: “medicine is a means to manifest our love for one another, not to serve the law- the person in front of you is what matters.”

By: Johnnie Eagan, ’20

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Denise McNulty

Who met Donald Trump twice, loves disco dancing, and had a bus driver try to poison her food?  Dr. Denise McNulty, head of the nursing department at Ave Maria University, wears all these crowns. Dr. McNulty spoke to the students of Ave Maria University in the second “Professors are People, Too” Q&A of this year.

In the academic world, she is incredibly accomplished– Dr. McNulty attended Holy Family University for her undergraduate degree, and has a master of science in nursing as well as a doctorate from Duquesne University, with a post-master in psychiatric health nursing.  

She has 30 years of psychiatric nursing experience and, ever since childhood, has always wanted to be in this field.  Dr. McNulty got a job working as a nurse’s aide in a Catholic hospital when she was sixteen, and the rest is history.  “I don’t have any one reason,” she said, looking back on her career choice. “I think I always just knew.”  In addition to working in hospitals, Dr. McNulty runs a private practice in Naples as an advanced nurse practitioner, and is the co-author of a book on nursing leadership.  Her favorite part about her job are the opportunities- “Nursing’s not a boring career at all– there’s always somebody who needs your help.”  

Dr. McNulty’s best advice for college students is to remember to have a good time.  “Have fun– you gotta have fun!” she encourages, “Whatever your fun is to you, just enjoy yourself!  And you’ll be that shocked your grades will be really good, because you’ll be happy.”

Larson Saves the Women’s Soccer Season 

This year, Ave Maria’s soccer program has been persevering through the struggles of their season. After being in a tough conference and having to reschedule games due to Irma, it’s a miracle that they have been able to handle everything thrown at them. Their record does not reflect their hard work and dedication, but one person’s statistics have stood out. Freshman goalie, Erica Larson, has tied the school record with 21 saves in one game and has broken the school’s record for total saves in one season.

The record hasn’t been touched since September 28th, 2013, when Francesca Singleton had 21 saves in a game verses Northwood. On October 11th, Erica tied the school record against St. Thomas University when they lost 7-0. Larson had 13 saves in the first 45 minutes of play and had 8 more in the second half. Her last save came in the 89th minute of play, which tied her for the school record. On Monday October 23rd, Larson has accumulated 143 saves in one season, which broke the Ave Maria record.  Francesca Singleton has had the record since her 2013 season, but it wasn’t a match for Larson.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, she is ranked the 10th goalie in the nation by having 143 saves in NAIA Division I soccer. Larson is also 7th in the nation in saves per game (10.670), and this is just her freshman year. It’s been a tough season for the Lady Gyrenes, but they have refused to back down despite the hardships and Erica Larson has been a key component for her team.

The Grace Project Welcomes January Donovan for “The Art of Being a Woman”

“I’m living the life of my dreams,” spoke Bethany Bateman while introducing the evening speaker from The Grace Project, January Donovan. Women from the University gathered to attend a talk given by the praised January Donovan, a woman who will, as described by Bethany Bateman, “impact your life within minutes.” An uplifting discussion ensued, centering around the message that “you can live an extraordinary life.”

January delivered this message to the women at Ave Maria University who live in a society where the value, gift, and beauty of women are not fully appreciated. Societal pressures downgrade the importance of women. January Donovan discussed ways for women to think opposite the way society wants them to. No longer should women allow their minds to be filled with expectations from others that prevent them from being their true selves. “What kind of woman do you want to be?” This question impacted the minds and hearts of the women in attendance. January Donovan spoke of being the kind of woman who allows herself to live her dreams, who knows what she wants, who gives herself permission to want what she wants, and who “leads the rise” with other women to strive to live a beautiful life.

January Donovan aims to illustrate “the art of being a woman” in order to assist women in impacting the world in their own individual and unique ways. Through her talk series on campus, she works with the women of Ave Maria to build and cultivate skills and talents which can assist them in living extraordinary lives. College women are at a time in their lives where they have so much ability to become extraordinary yet also where there is so much attack aimed to prevent them from doing so. The Grace Project works against the negative pressures in this society to supply women with the tools and skills needed to excel and succeed as beautiful women.

JPII’s Feast Day: A Student’s Reflection

“There is no place for selfishness and no place for fear!”  Saint John Paul II gets right to the point when describing the head-on, Christ-centered life he is calling today’s youth to live.  There is absolutely no room for selfishness or fear anywhere in the world, but this is especially true on college campuses.  It’s easy to be scared of college sometimes, especially as an underclassman. Will I like school? Will I make friends? Will I get good grades? Will they make me to go daily mass?  These are questions most students had running through their mind during orientation at Ave Maria.  Consequently, getting wrapped up in one’s own worries can easily lead to selfishness– it is easy to focus on your concerns, your desires, your preferences.  Thankfully, JPII sees this trend among the youth, and joyfully encourages us to be exactly the opposite!  He wants us to let go of our worries, most famously proclaiming “Do not be afraid!” from the balcony of St. Peter’s.  Although it is easy for universities to become selfish and fearsome places, Ave Maria has certainly not succumbed to this worldliness.

The devotion that the faculty, staff, and students on campus have to JPII is really quite remarkable.  The professors are constantly giving of themselves to the students to make sure that they’re getting the most out of their education.  From staying late in their offices, answering emails at all hours of the night, to meeting up at the pub to talk philosophy, Ave professors have done it all to ensure that each student reaches his or her academic potential.  As a result, the students reciprocate the love of learning they witness in their professors.  The teaching style in most classrooms is discussion based, so that everyone can voice their opinion. The unselfish nature of this education style is immeasurably valuable, for students and teachers work together to achieve the academic excellence cherished by Ave Maria University.

Academia isn’t the only realm on campus affected by Pope John Paul.  He had a great love for sports, particularly skiing and swimming, and his positivity and competitive spirit reverberate with the Gyrenes.  Each team on campus has a marvelous work ethic, and demonstrates sportsmanship in victory and defeat.  The camaraderie on the teams builds a community that John Paul II would be proud of, one that encourages self-discipline as well as pride in Ave athletics.

Not only does Ave Maria embody Pope John Paul’s advice in the classroom and on the sports fields, but also embodies a spirit of service which John Paul II held dear. This was evident in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. While the 130 mph winds were approaching, students, faculty, staff, and President Towey himself bustled around campus, making sure everything was safe and secure.  The field house was a shelter for residents of surrounding areas whose homes were in danger. After the storm, the community united to clean campus and provide assistance to more severely impacted areas.  Ave Maria is truly blessed to have such serving hearts present on campus.  Whether it’s assisting in hurricane cleanup, working in soup kitchens, or doing mission work in Africa– the students and staff of Ave Maria do not hesitate to give of themselves every day in extraordinary ways, living out John Paul’s command to the fullest: “Wherever people are suffering, wherever they are humiliated by poverty or injustice, and wherever a mockery is made of their rights, make it your task to serve them.”

Saint John Paul II didn’t only preach about courage and love– he lived these messages each and every day.  Born Karol Józef Wojtyla on May 18th, 1920, in Wadowice, Poland, he was destined for greatness right from the start.  After losing his mother and older brother at a young age, he went on to study at Jagiellonian University in Krakow.  During World War II, the Nazi’s closed down the university, so the young John Paul II had to continue his studies in secret with the Archbishop of Krakow.  After the war, he returned to school and was ordained a priest in 1946.

Pope John Paul earned his doctorate in theology after two years of fruitful study in Rome, after which he returned to Poland and served in parishes near Krakow.  His brilliant mind was recognized early on, and after becoming an Archbishop, he was invited to participate in the Second Vatican Council in 1962.  John Paul II’s contributions to this council were immeasurable. In 1967 he became a Cardinal. JPII was elected Pope in 1978- the first non-Italian Pope to succeed Saint Peter in over four hundred years.  He exhibited a great love for the youth throughout his reign as Pope, but it was most evident in his founding of World Youth Day in 1984.  John Paul II invited young people from all over the world to join him in Saint Peter’s square on Palm Sunday for an International Jubilee of youth, and over 300,000 attended.  He smiled on this massive crowd and declared with great joy, “What a fantastic spectacle is presented on this stage by your gathering here today! Who claimed that today’s youth has lost their sense of values? Is it really true that they cannot be counted on?”  JPII would say the same words to the youth of Ave Maria, who are afire with love for Christ and are ready to spread Christ’s love to the world.

From the JPII dorm on campus to the budding St. John Paul the Great leadership program, Ave Maria University embodies Saint John Paul II’s giving spirit, courage, and love.  His presence on campus is very real, and almost tangible– the way in which his spirituality is imitated is part of what makes Ave so unique, and is what makes its students such wonderful witnesses of the Catholic faith. Happy feast of St. John Paul the Great. John Paul II, pray for us!