Naples Daily News: Hurricane Irma: At Ave Maria University, classes are out, but education continues after the storm

Classes were canceled at Ave Maria University this week.

But the students who stayed behind to weather Hurricane Irma are getting the education of a lifetime.

“I told our students they’d be better men and women by Monday,” University President Jim Towey said Wednesday.

The students and staff of the university, which was largely spared from hurricane damage, have been volunteering in droves to lend a hand in Immokalee, the nearby farming community which was not so fortunate.

On Wednesday, students filled van after van with water, sandwiches, fruit and bread and drove into Immokalee.

Some went to the soup kitchen operated by Guadalupe Social Services, but others drove straight into neighborhoods where residents are just returning from shelters to find spoiled food, flooded streets and few stores open.

President Towey’s Bible Study Is Back

Students joined President Towey on Monday as he began a year-long study of the Gospel of Matthew. Held in the lobby of John Paul II Hall, students gathered to focus on the birth and baptism of Jesus and the role of John the Baptist. Over the course of the school year, President Towey will to host regular sessions to further explore the Gospel.

Convoked in the Cause of Truth: A New Academic Year Begins

Picture the city of Rome, where a 10th century basilica stands on a small island in the middle of the Tiber River. The Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Island, founded by Otto III at the close of the first century, contains within its walls the relics of St. Bartholomew the Apostle and St. Adalbert of Prague—both early Christian martyrs. At the close of the twentieth century, Pope John Paul II dedicated the basilica to the life and history of the New Christian Martyrs of the 20th Century. Now, resting besides the ancient relics, you can find memorials like the bible of Shahbaz Bhatti (1968-2011), the missal of Óscar Romero (1917-1980), and a letter written by Christian de Chergé (1937-1996).

With this image of old and new, united by a single theme that spans the centuries, Dr. Daniel Philpott launched into his Convocation Address, “What Persecuted Christians teach Us,” at Ave Maria University on September 1, 2017. In his address, Dr. Philpott, who is Professor of Politics at the University of Notre Dame and co-director of Under Caesar’s Sword, explained the various ways in which Christians around the world respond to persecution, drawing from their example a lesson for the students and faculty gathered to begin a new academic year.

Ave Maria Announces Plans for New Multi-Purpose Field

AVE MARIA, Fla. — Ave Maria University announced this morning plans to add an artificial turf multi-purpose field to campus that will be home to the Gyrenes football, soccer and lacrosse teams.

The field will cost approximately $650,000 and will be constructed on top of where the current football field is located. The University expects to complete installation of the new field before the Gyrenes’ first home football game on Saturday, September 2, 2017.


“This is a significant announcement in the short history of our athletic department,” said Director of Athletics John Lamanna. “The new synthetic turf field will fill the needs of four sports.  We are committed to excellence and growth in mind, body and spirit. The new field will enhance the student-athlete experience by providing excellent practice and game playing conditions and will help in attracting future students to Ave Maria University.”


Rainy season in Southwest Florida coincides with football and soccer seasons and afternoon storms often render the Gyrenes’ grass fields unusable.


“The artificial field will allow for perfect drainage and a consistent surface, both of which are nearly impossible on a grass field in Southwest Florida,” said second-year head football coach Joe Patterson. “The new field will have a transformative impact on the program, especially in regards to our practices and games.”


Ave Maria’s soccer teams and the women’s lacrosse team will also use the new artificial turf field. The field is expected to positively impact recruiting, increase player safety, and improve game time experiences.


Ave Maria’s athletic teams are members of The Sun Conference and compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The Ave Maria football program begins a new chapter in 2017 as they will participate in their first season in the Sun Division of the Mid-South Conference.


The Athletic Department at Ave Maria has grown from six varsity level sports in 2008-09, to 16 varsity-level programs for the 2017-18 season, with over 40% of students competing on athletic teams. Visit Ave Maria’s Athletics website for schedules, team rosters and stories:


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.


The University was founded in 2003 and moved to its permanent campus in the fall of 2007.  Ave Maria enrolled 1,102 students for the 2016-17 academic year, including 1,042 undergraduates, and offers 33 majors as well as graduate studies in Theology.  Students from 45 states and 20 countries comprise a student body that is approximately 85% Catholic, 25% minority, and evenly-divided between men and women.


AMU’s state-of-the-art campus includes residence halls with a capacity for 1,300 students and rests on a tract of over 300 acres in Southwest Florida near Naples.  For more information on Ave Maria University, visit

Ave Maria University Makes History with its Largest Graduating Class

AVE MARIA, Fla. (May 6, 2017) —
The families, friends and graduates of the class of 2017 at Ave Maria University celebrated the school’s 13th commencement with the largest graduating class in their history today. 232 graduates received their diplomas: 217 undergraduate degrees, 13 master’s degrees, and 2 doctorate degrees. The class of 2017 included the first graduates of Ave Maria’s nursing program.

President’s Award winner Michael O’Donnell is congratulated by President Jim Towey at Ave Maria University’s 13th commencement ceremony.

The commencement speaker was Mr. Daniel D’Aniello who was recognized by Ave Maria University with an honorary doctorate in recognition of his exemplary life as an entrepreneur, corporate executive, philanthropist, and Catholic layman. Dan D’Aniello was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania , raised by a single mother, and started working at the age of nine as a stock boy at his uncle’s produce market. He subsequently worked his way through college at Syracuse University where he graduated at the top of the Business School. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy during the time of the Vietnam War, served on the U.S.S. Wasp, and had four major deployments during his time of service. Last year, D’Aniello received the Lone Sailor Award from the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation. D’Aniello placed his MBA from Harvard Business School in the service of successful stints at TWA, Pepsico, and Marriott International before co-founding The Carlyle Group, a global alternative asset management firm, in 1987. Carlyle currently has offices in 20 countries spanning six continents and manages $169 billion of assets across its portfolio of funds.

Mr. D’Aniello encouraged the graduates to be strong persons of faith “Most all of you will be leaving this nurturing faith-based community to find your place in the world. And in this day and age, you’ll find that it’s not so easy being a person of faith in the dispassionate secular world we live in. As a graduate of Ave Maria University, however, you’ve not only received a top flight education in the field of your choice, but you’ve also received a strong faith-based formation. You not only can succeed professionally, but as importantly, if not more so, you are well-prepared to live your faith as an example to others.” He further exhorted the class of 2017 “If I leave you with one thought on this graduation day, it would be this: I hope you will find ways to turn your appreciation for what has been given to you into an inspiration toward helping others – including family and friends, your communities of faith and, of course, the poor in corporal needs and the poor in spirit. In the end, our personal relationships are the most important thing we have in this world, and none more important than our relationship with Jesus Christ.”

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. The University was founded in 2003 and moved to its permanent campus in the fall of 2007. Ave Maria enrolled 1,102 students for the 2016-17 academic year, including 1,042 undergraduates, and offers 33 majors as well as graduate studies in Theology. Students from 45 states and 20 countries comprise a student body that is approximately 85% Catholic, 25% minority, and evenly-divided between men and women. AMU’s state-of-the-art campus includes residence halls with a capacity for 1,300 students and rests on a tract of over 300 acres in Southwest Florida near Naples. 

AMU Recommended in 10th Anniversary Edition of ‘The Newman Guide’

Virginia – Ave Maria University is recommended in the 2017-2018 edition of The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College, a publication of The Cardinal Newman Society that recommends 29 Catholic colleges, universities and higher education programs for excellence in faithful Catholic education.

With the release of the 2017-18 edition, The Cardinal Newman Society celebrates 10 years of connecting families with faithful Catholic education through the Guide. We also celebrate the strength and accomplishments of the recommended institutions over the last several years, despite the substantial challenges faced by most private colleges.

In seven years at Ave Maria University, undergrad enrollment climbed 75%. Recent expansions at the University include Catholic teacher formation and the Mother Teresa Project with the Missionaries of Charity to promote service.

“In the last 10 years, the institutions recommended in The Newman Guide have experienced remarkable success while remaining committed to a strong Catholic identity,” said Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly.  “The reputation of and appreciation for these faithful institutions is certainly growing in the Church, and they have become pillars of the New Evangelization in America.”

The late Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR, who wrote the preface to the first Newman Guide 10 years ago, said it was the Newman Society’s “most important contribution to Catholic higher education ever.”

Since the first edition of The Newman Guide in 2007, the Newman Society has greatly expanded the profiles of the recommended colleges online at, distributed more than 100,000 free copies of the companion magazine My Future, My Faith, and launched the innovative Recruit Me! program to introduce families to The Newman Guide colleges.

Founded in 1993, the mission of The Cardinal Newman Society is to promote and defend faithful Catholic education at all levels, including elementary, secondary and higher education. The Society is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, nonprofit organization supported by individuals, businesses, and foundations.


It Never Lets Up!

As some students headed out of town for the mid-term break, others left the country to go and serve the poorest of the poor with Mother Teresa’s nuns in the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Here they are at a dessert Mary and I hosted at our home the night before they departed.

March was filled with huge University events.  Principal among them was the joint celebration of the Annunciation and our founder Tom Monaghan’s birthday.  I had a lot of preparatory work to do so that meant early mornings in the office.  As I worked at my desk the week before the big day, I looked out my window and saw this gorgeous sunrise above the Oratory, with the shining cross at its highest point.

3rd Annual History Undergrad Mini Conference

The History Department hosted its third annual Undergraduate Mini Conference this weekend. At the event, junior history majors gave presentations laying out the groundwork and direction of what will become, next year, their senior thesis projects.

The conference on Saturday April 8th began with a keynote address from AMU Assistant Professor of History, Dr. Michael Breidenbach, on one of his research specialties, the role of Catholicism in the American founding. Dr. Breidenbach’s paper, “‘This Damnable Doctrine’: Lord Baltimore and Catholic Loyalty in Seventeenth-Century Maryland,” both set the conference tone as one of serious academic inquiry and offered to the hopeful historians an example of historical research to which they can aspire.

Over the course of the morning and early afternoon, twelve juniors presented on topics as diverse as a history of medicine in the Middle Ages, the creation of the mythical gangster in the 20th century, diplomacy between the Confederate States of America and the Vatican, and Communism’s role in the decay of Russian mystical culture.

These presentations are projects stemming from the Historiography course (HIST 401), in which AMU history majors learn the philosophy of history and the methods and instruments used in the conduction of historical research. Next year, these research projects will be further developed into senior theses, which culminate in an oral presentation and defense. The Mini Conference affords the junior history majors valuable preparation in presenting on and fielding questions about their research.

Student Spotlight: Pauline Gilmore

Pauline Gilmore is an exemplary presence on Ave Maria’s campus. As a New York native, Pauline has spent her summers bringing her love for Christ to young adults by attending and working for Camp Veritas as a counselor. This summer, Pauline plans to set off on a missionary journey with Camp Veritas in the UK and is excited for the chance to truly encounter God’s children and tell them how loved they are.

Is history repeating itself?

An essay exploring the biological effects of hormonal birth control on multiple generations of humans

Diana West, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Ave Maria University, Ave Maria, FL
Vicki Thorn, Founder, Project Rachel and Executive Director, National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation & Healing, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Dr. Diana West, Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Dr. Diana West, Assistant Professor of Chemistry

In 1930, Pope Pius XI reaffirmed the Church’s two-millennia teaching on contraception in Casti Connubii (1). A generation later, Bl. Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae defined and predicted the consequences of a contraceptive mentality and explained why acceptable methods such as Natural Family Planning/Fertility Awareness respected the nature of the marital act (2). Subsequent Pontiffs have continued to contribute to deeper theological understanding for marriage and human dignity, most notably, St. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Despite the Magisterium’s clear instruction on appropriate means of family planning, a Guttmacher survey (3) reported that among self-identified Catholic women (between ages 15-44 and sexually-active), 83% used contraceptive methods not sanctioned by the Church. As a significant proportion of women, Catholic and non-Catholic have used birth control over the past several decades, several scholars have delved into the social and spiritual consequences of a contraceptive society (4-8). This essay will instead explore the history and multi-generational biological fallout of hormonal contraceptives.

In 1936, Dr. Elizabeth Hunt published a medical editorial raising concerns over using natural estrogens to treat human skin disorders. Knowing that estrogens induced tumors in laboratory animals, Hunt asked, “…should not a woman be informed of the possible risk to which she is exposed[?]”(9). Shortly thereafter, two synthetic estrogens were developed by competing scientific teams: diethylstilbestrol (DES) (10) and ethinyl estradiol (EE2) (11). DES was prescribed to women to prevent miscarriages and premature births. While male workers occupationally exposed to DES developed breasts (12), few recognized this harbinger of future’s disturbing side effects. Decades later, vaginal cancer (adenocarcinoma) was linked to patients whose mothers’ used DES (13), and subsequent evidence of DES-induced cancer and fertility disorders led to its ban in 1971. By then, millions of women worldwide had taken DES; their children, exposed to DES in utero, were termed “DES daughters and sons” (14, 15). DES children later had children of their own, and “DES grandchildren” also experienced side effects of their grandmothers’ prescription (16,17). These observations implied that DES induced inheritable changes, and experimental evidence of DES-altered DNA via epigenetic modifications supports this hypothesis (18,19).

EE2, developed at the same time as DES, showed potential as a birth control hormone. Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger backed a team of researchers to formulate the first birth control pill with mestranol, a derivative of EE2 (20,21). First available in 1960, the drug was quickly nicknamed “the Pill,” a general moniker used since then for most oral hormonal contraceptives. In 1969, Barbara Seaman, a pro-choice journalist-turned-activist, summarized her research on Pill-induced blood clots, mood disorders, and cancer in The Doctor’s Case Against the Pill (22). Senator Gaylord Nelson subsequently organized congressional hearings on Pill safety that were interrupted by young feminist protesters shouting questions such as: “Why are 10 million women being used as guinea pigs?” (23, 24). Like DES, EE2 was a recognized occupational hazard for pharmaceutical workers; male breast development and female fertility disorders were documented symptoms (25). Four decades after the Pill was first prescribed, the World Health Organization classified the combined estrogen-progestogen contraceptive as a Group 1 carcinogen (26, 27), a ranking shared with tobacco and asbestos. The Pill’s elevated risk of breast and cervical cancer was strong enough to warrant Group 1 classification, despite evidence of lowered ovarian/endometrial cancer risk. Some of today’s contraceptive formulations, with lower EE2 doses than the first Pill, still have a significant association with increased breast cancer risk (28, 29). Similar to DES, EE2 is also an environmental epigenetic DNA modifier (30) that may produce inheritable risks for Pill user’s children and grandchildren. Altered epigenetic DNA markers and increased cancer incidence were observed in EE2-exposed female rats and two subsequent generations of offspring (31). Dr. Craig Roberts and others have demonstrated that Pill-users were attracted to different men compared non-Pill-users (32,33), implying an unknown biological mechanism that may alter human evolution and mate choice. Some of the first Pill proponents became concerned about the unintended effects of synthetic hormones on human health and evolution. Dr. Carl Djerassi, nicknamed “father of the Pill,” admitted that the Pill’s use over several decades served as an incidental longitudinal side-effect study (34). Djerassi ironically suggested that pharmaceutical companies develop Natural Family Planning methods as the future for birth control (35). Dr. Alexander Sanger, Chair of International Planned Parenthood Council, wrote that Pill-users “…are taking reproductive risks that cannot be seen or measured” (36). Therefore, as we begin to understand the biological consequences of the synthetic hormones in contraceptives, the contraceptives upon which our society purportedly relies, we can’t help but think of the early whistle-blowers: should not a woman be informed of the possible risk to which she is exposed? Why are millions of women and men being used as guinea pigs?

1. Pope Paul VI. (1968). Humanae Vitae.
2. Pope Pius XI. (1930). Casti Connubi.
3. Jones R.K.; Dreweke J. (2011). Countering Conventional Wisdom: New Evidence on Religion and Contraceptive Use, Guttmacher Institute.
4. Smith, J. E. (1993). Why Humanae vitae was right: A reader.
5. Grabowski, J. (2003) Sex and Virtue: An Introduction to Sexual Ethics.
6. Eberstadt, M. (2012) Adam and Eve after the Pill.
7. Klaus, H.; Cortes, M.E. (2015). “Psychological, social, and spiritual effects
of contraceptive steroid hormones.” The Linacre Quarterly, 82 (3), 282.
8. Klaus, H. (2017). “Fertility is Not a Disease.” Church Life Journal.
9. Hunt, E. (1936). “Oestrin in Toxic Goitre.” The Lancet, 1302.
10. Dodds, E.C. (1938). “Oestrogenic Activity of Certain Synthetic Compounds.” Nature.
11. Gaudilliere, J. (2005). “Better prepared than synthesized: Adolf Butenandt, Schering Ag and the transformation of sex steroids into drugs (1930–1946).” Stud. Hist. Phil. Biol. & Biomed. Sci. 36 612–644.
12. Scarff R.W., Smith C.P. (1942). “Proliferative and other lesions of the male breast in stilboestrol workers.” Br J Surg 29:393–396.
13. Herbst, A.L.; Ulfelder, H.; Poskanzer, D.C. (1971).“Adenocarcinoma of the vagina. Association of maternal stilbestrol therapy with tumor appearance in young women.” N Engl J Med. 284:878–881.
14. Hoover R.N.; Hyer, M.; Pfeiffer, R.M.; et al. (2011). “Adverse health outcomes in women exposed in utero to diethylstilbestrol.” N Engl J Med. 365:1304–1314.
15. For a summary of DES research, see the NIH DES Fact Sheet:
16. McLachlan, J.A. (2006). “Commentary: Prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES): a continuing story.” Int J Epidemiol, 35 (4): 868-870.
17. Kalfa, N.; Paris, F,; Soyer-Gobillard, M.O., et al. (2011). “Prevalence of hypospadias in grandsons of women exposed to diethylstilbestrol during pregnancy: a multigenerational national cohort study.” Fertil Steril. 95(8):2574-7.
18. McLachlan, J.A. (2016). “Environmental signaling: from environmental estrogens to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and beyond.”Andrology. 4(4):684-94.
19. Newbold, R.R.; Padilla-Banks, E.; Jefferson, W.N. (2006) Endocrinology. “Adverse effects of the model environmental estrogen diethylstilbestrol are transmitted to subsequent generations.”
20. Lednicer, D., ed. (1969). Contraception: the chemical control of fertility.
21. Marks, L. (2010). Sexual Chemistry: A History of the Contraceptive Pill.
22. Seaman, B. (1969). The Doctor’s Case Against the Pill.
23.Kling, W. “Senate Pill Probe Disrupted by Groups of Women Hecklers.” Chicago Tribune. 24 January 1970.
24. Seaman, B. “The Pill and I: 40 Years on, the Relationship Remains Wary”, New York Times. 25 June 2000.
25. Harrington, J.M.; Stein, G.F.; Rivera, R.O., et al. (1978). “The Occupational Hazards of Formulating Oral Contraceptives – A Survey of Plant Employees.” Archives Of Environmental Health: An International Journal Vol. 33, Iss. 1.
26. IARC. (1999). IARC monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans, volume 72, hormonal contraception and post-menopausal hormonal therapy.
27. IARC. (2006). IARC monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans,
volume 91, combined estrogen-progestogen contraceptives and combined estrogen progestogen menopausal therapy.
28. Beaber, E.F.; Buist, D.S.; Barlow, W.E.; et al. (2014). “Recent oral contraceptive use by formulation and breast cancer risk among women 20 to 49 years of age.” Cancer Res. 74(15):4078-89.
29. Beaber, E.F.; Malone, K.E.; Tang, M.T.; et al. (2014). “Oral contraceptives and breast cancer risk overall and by molecular subtype among young women.” Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 23(5):755-64.
147(6 Suppl):S11-7.
30. King, O.C.; van de Merwe, J.P.; McDonald, J.A. (2016). “Concentrations of levonorgestrel and ethinylestradiol in wastewater effluents: Is the progestin also cause for concern?” Environ Toxicol Chem. 35(6):1378-85.
31. de Assis, S.; Warri, A.; Cruz, M.I.; et al. (2012). “High-fat or ethinyl-oestradiol intake during pregnancy increases mammary cancer risk in several generations of offspring.” Nature Communications. 3: 1053.
32. Cobey, K.D.; Little, A.C.; Roberts, S.C. (2015). “Hormonal effects on women’s facial masculinity preferences: the influence of pregnancy, post-partum, and hormonal contraceptive use.” Biol Psychol. 104:35-40.
33. For a review see: Alvergne, A.; Lummaa, V. (2010). “Does the contraceptive pill alter mate choice in humans?” Trends Ecol Evol. 25(3):171-9.
34. Djerassi, C. (2001). This Man’s Pill: Reflections on the 50th Birthday of the Pill.
35. Djerassi, C. (1990). “Fertility Awareness: Jet-Age Rhythm Method” Science. 248:4959, 1061-1062.
36. Sanger, A. (2004). Beyond Choice.