An Introvert’s Guide to Networking

The pressure of building a solid professional network is already present in the minds of career-seeking students. But it can be difficult to get out of your comfort zone to speak with someone new. You’re not alone if you find networking scary, pointless, or confusing. Here are a few reasons to network, and some tips for doing it well.

Before you enter a professional event or social situation, ask yourself what you want to walk away knowing. For myself, I always want to walk away knowing a person. I desire to know where she is in life, how her past led her there, what brings her joy, and where her hopes lie. In short, I desire to establish a relationship by knowing and being known by another. At the end of a good conversation, I will exchange contact information with the individual in order to maintain the relationship, and BAM! I have inadvertently added a real person to my network..

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. We typically make friends by falling into conversation about some mutual point of interest, and if we want to keep in touch we will exchange phone numbers. Networking does not just mimic relationship-building; it actually is relationship-building.

If you have friends, you can network.

I would advise introverts (and, well, everyone) not to enter a professional event with the intention of building your network. With such an intention, the people in the room may become “potential connections” rather than people. Conversation goes differently if you are eager to display your resume and inquire about job opportunities. Often, people can tell when they are being used as a means to some end. They do not appreciate it, and ultimately neither will you.

Strengthening a Culture of Success: Ave Maria PhD Students Launch Professional Development Colloquia

Already, the Ave Maria University Graduate Theology programs have had a great deal of success, as evidenced by the placement of our graduates in many positions throughout academia and beyond. However, until recently, the practical wisdom regarding professional development had been passed down from year to year in a rather informal manner. With a very competitive job market and, the requirements and expectations of employers changing and increasing, a group of PhD students came together to start a series of professional development colloquia to help graduate students in all the areas that are important for preparing to enter the job market, from CV and resume writing, to practice interviews, publication tutorials, and conference advice, these colloquia will help ensure that AMU Graduate students are prepared to bring what they have learned out into the world.

A small steering committee of current PhD students, Taylor O’Neill (4th year), Brandon Wanless (4th year), Daniel Lendman (1st year), Sean Robertson (1st year), led by Kevin Clarke (3rd year), got together and formed a plan for the success and content of the colloquia. With the approval of GIV President (the AMU Graduate Theology student government) Sean Robertson, this initiative will be conducted under the auspices of GIV in order to ensure its endurance through the years. Dr. Roger Nutt graciously agreed to be the faculty advisor and sponsor, and at his advice the steering committee reached out to Zachary Crockett at the AMU career center and inaugurated was is hoped to be a long standing and fruitful relationship between the  AMU career services office and the Graduate Theology Programs.

The first meeting was well-attended and the proposal was gladly received by the graduate students. All are eager to build upon the culture of success that is already in place in the theology programs. What is more, through these meetings graduate students will be able to build one another up, aid one another, and foster a stronger sense of community.

Baseball Kicks Off Spring Break With Win

Ave Maria, FL — The Ave Maria University baseball team began a stretch of eleven games in nine days with a victory on Friday afternoon, topping the Cougars of Spring Arbor University, 7-2, at Bowie’s Ballpark. The Gyrenes used a six run sixth inning to give Austin Munn enough support for his fourth win of the season.

After a quiet first inning, Spring Arbor opened the scoring with one swing of the bat in the second. Alex Holley clubbed a 1-2 pitch over the left field wall, hitting his second homer of the season and giving the visiting Cougars an early 1-0 lead.

Ave Maria finally responded in the bottom of the fifth inning. Mason Dinesen singled up the middle to begin the frame, and moved to third base on a pair of Spring Arbor miscues- a passed ball and an errant pickoff throw. Following a walk to Matt Wiles, Tully Allen grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Dinesen. The Gyrenes would threaten to take the lead with runners on second and third, but could not push any more runs across.

The Gyrenes then took the lead in the bottom of the sixth, scoring six runs to claim a 7-1 advantage. Rico Soto led off with a double, and was awarded third base when a pickoff play was ruled interference on the Cougars. AMU grabbed their first lead of the game when Ryan Keegan singled home Soto. From that point, the floodgates opened for the Gyrenes. Dinesen and Allen each lined RBI doubles into the gap, and Brody Howe added an RBI single. Two more runs scored on wild pitches, and Ave had opened up a 7-1 lead after six.

The six-run lead proved to be more than enough for Munn. The senior from Lafayette, Indiana was dominant in his seven innings of work. His sixth strikeout of the game was his 200th at Ave Maria, making him just the third pitcher in school history to acheive that feat. The righty ended with eleven strikeouts, tied for the highest total he has put up this season. Munn has struck out 21 Spring Arbor hitters in his two appearances against the Cougars, dating back to last season. Jesse Crosno relieved Munn, and the two Gyrenes pitchers combined for 15 strikeouts in the win.

Spring Arbor did score the final run of the contest, as Holley hit his second home run of the afternoon, again clearing the left field wall.

Dinesen and Soto were Ave Maria’s offensive leaders in the victory, each recording a pair of hits.

Ave Maria and Spring Arbor will play two more games on Saturday as part of a non-conference doubleheader. The opening game of the twinbill is scheduled for 11 a.m. The doubleheader will consist of two seven inning contests.

Student Spotlight: Nick Pullano

Senior, Nick Pullano, from Mundelein, Illinois, will be graduating this May with a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry. Nick has the heart of a servant and can always be found going above and beyond what is asked of him. After graduation, Nick plans to attend medical school, with the long-term goal of finding a cure for Type 1 Diabetes – a cause close to his heart.

What did you do last summer?

This past summer, I spent my time working at a local golf and country club as well as volunteering as a research assistant at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, which is one of the top research hospitals in the state. While I was at Lutheran General, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with two Family Practioners, one of which specialized in the genetic disorder of Down Syndrome. I was able to assist them in their research projects, which focused on reducing the cost of healthcare for both the providers and patients of down syndrome treatments, based on medical status. By working alongside these physicians, I was able to understand the dire need for affordable healthcare in America and think creatively to work toward a solution for the future.

What do you want to do when you graduate? 

After I graduate from Ave Maria University in May, I will be under review for medical school acceptance. During this time, I will be utilizing my Biochemistry degree by working as a chemist in a research lab either in Illinois or Florida.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

Five years from now, I see myself completing my education at one of my top medical school choices and applying to a residency program as the next step in my healthcare career.

What are you plans for this year to get closer to your goal?

I am currently devoting twenty-five to thirty hours per week to my online Kaplan course, which is designed to help me prepare for the MCAT examination. Additionally, I will be finalizing my applications for medical school.

Why did you choose the career for which you are preparing?

I chose the medical field because I have always wanted the opportunity to bring joy to others by serving them. Before attending Ave Maria University, I was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. While it was initially difficult to adjust to this sudden lifestyle change, I believe that it was God’s way of calling me to the medical field; specifically, to work towards a cure for Type 1 Diabetes.

How have you coped with your diagnosis?

Coping with Type 1 Diabetes is, and will aways be, a challenge for me, but I was referred to a phenomenal Endocrinologist down here in Naples by the name of Dr. Todd Brodie. He and his assistants have given me the most up to date information on how to manage Type 1 Diabetes, since I am still a newbie to this disease. The key to managing it, for me, has been to exercise regularly and stick to a healthy diet. Dr. Brodie’s insight on taking the correct amount of insulin and consistently making sure that I test my glucose 4-6 times a day has given me a tremendous blood glucose level (A1C) of 6.9!

What have you learned from participation in extracurricular activities?  

Through my participation in extracurricular activities, I have learned that it is essential to get along with others in order to create strong relationships with teammates and reach a common goal. In addition, by participating in baseball throughout my four years at Ave, I learned that time management is key in order to maintain balance in everyday life.

Who are three people in history you admire most and why? 

I admire General George S. Patton for his bravery and extensive military knowledge while leading our country in WWII, Saint John Paul II for helping to bring an end to communism in Europe, especially his home country of Poland, and Michael Jordan for his tenacity and killer instincts which helped to lead the Chicago Bulls to six championships.

What is the most memorable phone call you have ever received?

The most memorable phone call that I ever received was from one of my close family friends who happens to be former Cubs 3rd basemen, Ron Santo. During this phone call, Mr. Santo personally invited my cousins and I to go see him at the radio booth in historic Wrigley Field. As many of you know, I am a die hard Cubs fan, so this phone call was one of the most exciting moments in my life… besides, of course, when the Cubs won the World Series! It was great to listen to what he had to say about his life, because, like me, he is a type 1 diabetic who plays baseball. He gave me lots of encouragement to keep doing what I love, and told me to always pursue my passion.

What is the one thing you have always wanted but still don’t have? 

As the only child in my family, I have always wanted to have siblings. I always wonder what my childhood would have been like if I had had an older sibling to look up to or a younger sibling to take care of.

What things are most important to you now? Why?  

My relationships with family and friends, my faith, striving to be the best person I can be, and helping others become the best person they can be.

How have your dreams and goals changed throughout your life? 

My childhood dreams and goals were greatly influenced by growing up in Illinois and being a huge Chicago Bulls fan. Because I saw Michael Jordan leading the bulls to many championships, I always envisioned myself being a professional basketball player. I also had an interest in meteorology because I was so fascinated by thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tornados. While I do not specifically wish to pursue a career in meteorology anymore, I believe this early interest influenced my choice to pursue a science degree at Ave Maria. When I was diagnosed with Diabetes prior to attending Ave, my ultimate dream and goals evolved into a desire to work in the medical field to find a cure for Diabetes. I want to help other individuals, like myself, live a more enjoyable life.

Where in the world would you like to get lost?  

I am interested in traveling to so many places, but I think I would ultimately like to get lost in Spain. I’ve always wanted to spend time in Spain because it looks like such a beautiful country and is so rich in history.

Do you have any good study habits to pass on?  

Throughout my four years at Ave Maria University, I have found that it is essential to establish relationships with your professors and regularly meet with them for help with material that you do not understand. After learning first hand from your professors, you can then help others understand the material better as well. This will not only help them with their studies, but also help you to solidify your own knowledge.

If you could interview anyone, who would it be and what would you ask? 

If I could interview anyone in history, I would want to interview Jesus Christ. Not only is He the most interesting figure in history, but also our Lord and Savior. It would be absolutely incredible to hear an account of salvation history through the words of Jesus Christ Himself.

Rookie Debate Team Competes in Tournament

Against all odds, members of AMU’s St. Thomas More Debate Club were able to hold their heads high with pride as they traveled home from Colorado in early February after participating in an invitational parliamentary-style debate tournament. This was the first debate experience for the student-run club, which was founded in Fall 2016 and is entirely self-coached.

Augustine Payne, captain of the team, reported back after the event: “Many teams and coaches were excited to see us when they heard it was the first tournament for our team and that we were a student-run team.” Payne is a junior majoring in Economics. “It was a great experience for me and the rest of the team,” he went on. “We learned lots of new things and, as one judge put it, these little things will take us from being in the novice round to being junior debaters.”

Gabriel Hogan, one of the four students who participated in the tournament, likewise found the tournament environment supportive of their efforts: “Once people found out we were a coach-less club team with almost no training, they would give us some quick tips or advice of some kind.” Hogan is a freshman at AMU, and interested in majoring in Exercise Science or Health Science. “This kind of made me the odd ball at the tournament,” Hogan said, referring to his academic interests. He essentially “fell into” the club—agreeing to sit as a judge for one of the club’s debates when his friend, Payne, asked him. “Turns out that the day I went they were also short a few speakers, so I got to participate in a debate.” When the club needed another student so they could go to the tournament as two teams of two, they called on Hogan again. “I figured it would be a learning experience, useful, and a chance to get off campus and see Colorado, so I agreed.”

The four AMU students who participated in the 2017 Values & Capitalism National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) Invitational Tournament from February 3-4 divided into two teams and competed in the Novice Division, which was limited to students in their first year of debate. The topics of debate were drawn from policy issues related to the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) Values & Capitalism project, such as anti-poverty policy, education policy, and financial policy. The event was jointly sponsored by AEI and Colorado Christian University.

Since this was the team’s first debate experience (previously, they had only debated against themselves), they were met with many challenges going into the tournament—from facing students from other universities who had much more training, to simply familiarizing themselves with the many technicalities involved. “After the first round, everyone started to get in the groove…and I feel like our game really improved from then on out,” Hogan said. “That was probably my favorite part—knowing that we came in as complete rookies, but we left with a much better sense of how we could improve in the future.”

Hogan—himself a complete rookie—managed to win an award for top speaker in the Novice Round. He received a standing ovation at the awards ceremony. “Among all four of us that went to Colorado,” freshman John Paul Harper said, “no one was expecting to bring home any hardware. So it was that much more of a joy to see a fellow teammate get recognized for his success.”

Harper, who always wanted to join a debate team in high school but never found the time, has found in AMU’s debate club a perfect supplement to his college education. “The ability to think critically and present an argument that is clear is so vital to many of the courses that one will take at AMU—or even to life in general,” he remarked. “Being a part of a debate team helps develop these skills, which is why I greatly value the opportunity to participate in AMU’s St. Thomas More Debate Club.”

Ambrose Bean, a freshman majoring in Politics, came away from the tournament experience with the realization that debate is an art. “Even if you are 100% wrong, you can use the power of good rhetoric and eloquent speech to sound like you’re right, convince those in the room you are right, and essentially win the argument. Unfortunately, I discovered this on the receiving end for the most part. … It was annoying, but ultimately, all it did was hook me.” Bean is eager to continue working with the club and hone his public speaking skills. He, like the other members of the debate club, sees his involvement as going hand-in-hand with his AMU college education. “I think Ave is somewhat at the forefront of educating the Catholic religious freedom warriors of tomorrow. The students graduating from here will no doubt face a whole slew of challenges in regard to their faith’s compatibility with American politics. Debate club is preparing me for that battle.”

The club is still in its first year, but they have big plans for the future. They will continue to practice, train, and grow as a team, and seek out tournaments where they can gain more experience. “Our mission as the debate team,” club captain, Payne, explains, “is for the students to become better communicators, a skill they will use in everyday life. It is our goal to learn what is a sound argument and be able to convey it in a persuasive way.”

Dr. McNulty Co-Authors a Book on Nurse Leadership

Congratulations to Associate Professor of Nursing Dr. Denise McNulty, who co-authored a leadership textbook for nurses that was published on February 4th!

This new textbook offers future and current nurses the tools needed for being leaders of positive change in the workplace. Unit III of the textbook features three innovations in nurse leadership development created by Dr. McNulty.

Leadership and the Advanced Practice Nurse: The Future of a Changing Healthcare Environment is co-authored by Diane K. Whitehead (EdD, RN, ANEF), Patricia Dittman (PhD, MSN, CDE), and Denise McNulty (DNP, MSN, RN-BC, ARNP), and is published by the independent nursing, medicine and health sciences publisher, F. A. Davis Company

Let the Public Debate on Sex and Gender Begin

Two thumbs up for President Trump’s sensible decision to reverse the Obama administration’s unprecedented, unlawful edict on transgender students.

Those decrying this decision as discriminatory and oppressive should actually read the letter the Obama administration issued last May if they want to see what discriminatory and oppressive action looks like!

Institutions like Ave Maria University received this federal directive, with the seals of both the U.S. Department of Justice and Education adorning the masthead, entitled, “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students.”  The communication ominously began that the “guidance” it was providing would be the basis for evaluating whether a university was compliant with their mandated interpretation of Title IX’s provisions dealing with sex discrimination.

The new dogma that demanded adherence? “Gender identity refers to an individual’s internal sense of gender. A person’s gender identity may be different from or the same as the person’s sex assigned at birth.”  It continues, “Harassment that targets a student based on gender identity, transgender status, or gender transition is harassment based on sex, and the Departments enforce Title IX accordingly.”  Here the Obama administration was threatening any institution that adhered to an interpretation of what for millennia has been the standard for distinguishing between males and females, with the withdrawal of student eligibility for Federal grants and loans.  The message was clear:  share our beliefs or we will shut you down.

For residential colleges like ours, “the Departments” had more “guidance” to dictate.  “A school must allow transgender students to access housing consistent with their gender identity and may not require transgender students to stay in single-occupancy accommodations.”

This heavy-handed approach of the Obama administration was well known to faith-based institutions like ours.  We had been bullied by his administration’s pontifications on matters of religious liberty, human sexuality, and institutional autonomy for eight years.  That’s why we were among the first in Federal Court suing over the Obama mandate on contraceptive services, including abortifacient drugs, and our health insurance plan.

In my opinion, the Obama administration, in its zeal to advance the LGBT agenda, went too far with its transgender directives and the accompanying threats of federal retribution for those not sharing their point of view.  President Trump’s common sense decision to end the Obama administration’s undemocratic policy is welcome relief.  The Trump administration rightfully pointed out the confusion and undemocratic nature of their predecessor’s overreach, and came out on the side of state and local control.  Makes perfect sense to me.  Perhaps now there can be a public discussion about how to balance the rights of a tiny fragment of the U.S. population with the rights of the overwhelming majority, particularly when what is encroached upon touches serious issues where the American people are not even close to a consensus.  Unelected Federal bureaucrats should not be deciding such matters.

Faith-based institutions like ours concur with the LGBT community view that sex is assigned at birth.  At issue is the question of how this “assignment” occurs.  The Judeo-Christian tradition believes that the One who assigns has done so from the beginning of the human race.  “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).”  Embracing this sincerely-held religious belief and traditional anthropology does not make one a bigot or proponent of discrimination.  Faith and reason are in harmony on this point.

No one on our campus wants to discriminate against transgender students, and this University would not tolerate it.  Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”  Those words were spoken by Our Lord without qualification.  I am proud of how welcoming the AMU campus environment is.

Let the debate begin in America on sex and gender, and let the voice of the faith-based community be heard like all others.  It will be nice to speak in the public square again and have our voice heard without the threat of Federal retribution hanging over our heads.  Good riddance to the Obama-era letter!

TSC Women’s Basketball Awards Revealed for 2016-17 Season

LAKELAND, Fla. — The 2016-17 women’s basketball postseason conference honors were unveiled tonight at the conference tournament final four banquet. Ave Maria’s Lauren Gillingham and Katie Ringdahl both received postseason recognition.

For a second consecutive season, Ringdahl was the recipient of the Champions of Character award. Already recognized this season as a member of the prestigious Allstate WBCA Good Works Team, Ringdahl ministers to the students at Immokalee High School and is now the YoungLife Team Leader for Immokalee High. Katie also works with the Immokalee High School girls’ basketball team and averages between 12-15 hours a week performing community service through YoungLife and other opportunities.

This year Katie was instrumental in adding YoungLife College to Ave Maria University. She made a presentation to Ave Maria’s administration and the director of mission outreach which resulted in YoungLife being recognized as an official club on campus.

Gillingham received First Team All-Conference recognition for her performance on the court. She led the Lady Gyrenes in scoring (16.2 ppg) and assists (89 total). She also ranked 10th in the NAIA in free throw percentage, converting 85.7 percent of her attempts from the charity stripe. Gillingham also received all-academic team recognition.

How to Land Your Dream Job

What are you good at? “Nothing” is not a valid answer. You were created wonderfully, fearfully, and intentionally. You have something necessary to bring to this world. Personally, I love to communicate. Whether by writing or speaking, this gift has been validated many times by kind both words from other people, and opportunities that have presented themselves. Think about the compliments that you receive. Think about the classes that you’ve excelled in. You have talents for a reason. You are good at things for a reason. Find an outlet that allows you to put your talents to work and use your gifts to their full potential.

If you aren’t certain about where your strengths lie, fear not! Maybe you haven’t had the chance to develop and explore them to their full potential. Online resources such as StrengthsQuest and the Myers-Briggs personality test allow you to identify your strongest attributes and turn them into life-skills. Each person is unique and has a skill set that only they can bring to the world. If you allow yourself to pursue the things that you excel in, not only will you find enjoyment in what you do, but you’ll be able to do it for a lifetime!

Where do you see yourself working?

Before you begin applying for jobs, it is of utmost importance that you evaluate your past work experiences. Were there things that you loved about a certain job? Things you hated about another? What tasks in past work experiences made you happy or proud? What was your biggest accomplishment? These seemingly small details should not be ignored! When you acknowledge what qualities make up your ideal workplace, you are more likely to gravitate toward a job that will suit every facet of your personality and introduce you to an environment where you will thrive!

Once you have determined your strengths, it is so important that you do not limit your career choices based on the path that people with the same degree as you generally take. If you are skilled in the realm of science, for example, you may assume that the only career-path you are suited for is to be a doctor. This could not be further from the truth! As someone who is scientifically skilled, you could be a teacher, a researcher, a lab technician, an astronomer, a member of a drug discovery team, a forensic scientist…the list goes on and on! Keep an open mind until you explore your options and are able to determine for yourself what you like and dislike.

What gives you energy?

What makes you feel the most alive? My roommate is completely changing her major after being in Guatemala for a service trip. She found so much joy working with underprivileged children that she cannot imagine doing anything else for the rest of her life.

Often, the vocation to which we are called is not what is easy. Will there be hard days and hard moments? Always. But you know it is right when not doing it is harder than doing it. A life lived in mediocrity cannot stack up to a life lived excellently. Glorify the Lord by accepting the challenges that He puts in your path so that at the end of your life, you can look back and say, “That wasn’t easy, but it was worth it”. Perseverance brings more peace than giving up.

Trustees pray Rosary for repose of the soul of Michael Novak


Michael Novak, longtime friend and patron of Ave Maria University, passed away on Friday, February 17, 2017.

Students at Ave Maria University affectionately knew him as “Ambassador Novak” or even simply, “The Ambassador.” This title acknowledged his pivotal role as U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations in 1981, and again as U.S. Ambassador to the Experts Meeting on Human Contacts of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1986. But perhaps even more, this title was one of deference, one that signified the special role he played within the Ave Maria University community.

Michael Novak was, to the AMU community, an ambassador of many things. It is most natural to point out first his commitment to the life of the mind and the pursuit of truth. Novak proudly claimed the place as the “first trustee” of the University—the first board member invited by Tom Monaghan to join efforts in founding a university dedicated to Our Lady, specifically in the moment of her fiat. Beginning in 2006, Novak donated to the University’s library what would eventually become thousands of books from his private collection. (Generations of students have marveled at the sheer number of volumes they pull from the shelves that are stamped with “From the library of Michael Novak.”) Ambassador Novak was a promoter and supporter of AMU’s academic and Catholic mission from the beginning, at first from a distance, and then in his final years as a resident of Ave Maria and a member of the faculty.

Novak first visited Ave Maria University for an extended period from January-February 2010, when he taught an accelerated course on Religion and the U.S. Founding (just one among dozens of areas to which his expertise and wisdom extended). Afterwards, he wrote for National Review Online of the experience: “It reminded me that my true vocation, next to writing, is teaching young people.” Already approaching eighty, Ambassador Novak moved to Ave Maria in Fall 2010 to teach a course on his work Belief & Unbelief: A Philosophy of Self-Knowledge. From there, his rededication to teaching young people took off with an energy and enthusiasm incredible to behold.

While never flagging in his vocation as a writer (of the over fifty books Novak wrote and co-wrote on philosophy, theology, and culture, at least five of these were finished while he lived in Ave Maria), Novak began teaching and mentoring the students of Ave Maria University. In multiple places, he referred to his AMU students as the “kids.” His kids. And they, in turn, looked on him with affection, almost as grandchildren sitting at the knees of their wise grandfather, the Ambassador, who had lived a life so full that its vitality continued to spill over even as he entered his final years.

Novak was also an ambassador to the faculty of Ave Maria University. He was so enamored of the quality of their scholarship, their dedication to the truth, and the sacrifices they made for their students, that he independently initiated the Laub-Novak Award for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities, named in honor of his wife, the artist Karen Laub-Novak (1937-2009). “The main idea in my heart,” Novak wrote about the initiative, “was that there are many who make great sacrifices for Ave Maria—students, their parents, the administration and the staff. But since you can’t recognize everyone at once, I decided to attend to the faculty. The faculty at Ave Maria have been extraordinarily high in quality, and they spend so many hours with the students. Their praises need to be sung while they are here, so they see how precious their work is. Recognition is, in a way, the most important thing in a person’s life. If you do great work and make sacrifices, and someone notices, it makes all the difference.”

It was with this sort of attention to the inner life of the individual that Ambassador Novak conducted all of his relationships. He took great pains to ensure that the award ceremonies were special occasions, memorable evenings of praise, entertainment and refreshments. In fact, every gathering in which Ambassador Novak played a part was sure to be filled with good food, good wine, and good music. It was a principle of his that one should make life as beautiful as one is able. He understood that the soul thirsts for beauty.

One AMU alumnus wrote in reflection: “I am especially grateful for the advice he gave me after sending him an email thanking him for the Marcel text he had given me to read. I confessed it was a balm during a world-weary period of life. Michael wrote back, ‘What is crucial is to drink in enough beauty to live another day. One practice is to read a little poetry every day, to have great music surrounding your soul… Beauty, beauty, beauty—the soul needs it like water.’ His reply continues to strike me for its charity, wisdom, and honesty—it came from his experience and he simply wanted to share it with another, an attitude I suspect which may shed light on his seemingly effortless practice of friendship.”

As an ambassador of beauty, Novak organized countless opportunities for the students—and the faculty and staff—to be placed in contact with the beautiful. He was a tireless promoter of his wife’s work, and he loaned many of her paintings and prints to be displayed around Ave Maria University’s campus. Similarly, he donated two portraits, one of himself and one of his wife, completed by world-renown artist Igor Babailov. The portraits now hang in the Ave Maria University Canizaro Library. Novak would organize and fund film screenings, poetry recitations, evenings of music appreciation, concerts, stage readings, and exhibits. He was a passionate fan of AMU’s Shakespeare in Performance program, and he would each year boast at the number of shows he made—often two in a single day. More than one AMU student was helped along the path to becoming an artist by Ambassador Novak’s patronage.

In fact, the number of Ave Maria University students, past and present, who owe Michael Novak a debt of gratitude for recommending them for a job, introducing them to a key professional connection, finding them an opportunity, encouraging them in a moment of uncertainty or pushing them to succeed is, without doubt, in the hundreds. Another AMU alumnus wrote in reflection: “It still baffles me how a man of his caliber and life experience cared so deeply about the lives of the young people he knew.”

And the Ambassador’s concern for guiding students to find their calling in life extended far beyond helping them to professional and personal success. He was quite possibly Ave Maria University’s most zealous matchmaker, desiring in the great generosity of his heart to help others find the love that he had found in his “treasure,” Karen. Dozens of young Ave couples were set on their feet by Novak’s magnanimity. He would host intimate dinners in his home for the young men and women on campus, hoping that some spark might light as a result. Many were invited to the pub to celebrate with him on March 19th, the anniversary of his first blind date with Karen. He gave “fireside chats” at the local coffee shop on his ideas on the different categories of love. He even went so far as to “sponsor” dates, offering to tight-budgeted college men the money needed to take a girl out for dinner, thereby encouraging them and teaching the value of dating in a culture so ignorant of true love.

It is easy to say that, above all, Michael Novak was an ambassador of love, especially of the One who is Love. Throughout his long life, he demanded excellence of himself, and he aimed at perfection. He was not satisfied to retire and enjoy himself in old age; rather, he woke up each morning and pushed himself to write an article, to finish yet another book, to call in for a radio interview or travel for a conference or a lecture. Oftentimes, this striving after perfection came out in harsh criticism or strong judgment. He demanded of others the same standards he set for himself. And yet, his criticism and judgment were always qualified with charity, with the recognition of the limitations of life on earth. One AMU student wrote: “He was a kind and critical but always encouraging mentor.” These things seem contradictory, but in fact they are reconciled in the wisdom of God. In his essay, “The Myth of Romantic Love,” Novak wrote: “Christian love is central, bodily, earthy, fatiguing, difficult to find a time for. It is but one means by which God shines the inner love of his own caritas into the inspirited bodies, and enfleshed spirits, of his people.”

We are but sojourners in this world, making our rough way through to the end of the race. We slip and fall, we break a bone, but we continue aiming for the goal. Along the way, God raises up our humble efforts and transforms them into something far beyond our reckoning. This is what Ambassador Novak lived, and in living taught to everyone who knew him.

When the Ambassador turned 80 in September 2013, Ave Maria University had the privilege of organizing and hosting a conference in honor of his life and achievements. Friends, family and colleagues of Michael Novak flew in from around the country to honor this great man. It was an astonishing moment—a pause to look around and take stock of the monumental achievements of a single individual. He came from humble beginnings—born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a descendent of Slovakian immigrants—and went on to achieve success in a vast array of fields: as an author, theologian, philosopher, poet, diplomat, social commentator, benefactor, friend, son, brother, husband, father, and grandfather.

Although he lived a life so full, it was clear in his final years that Michael Novak longed to be reunited with Karen, communing together in the eternal love of God. Many around him wondered what more God could be asking of him, and why he was kept on earth so long after his wife departed. In spite of the pain of separation, Ambassador Novak imitated Our Lady’s fiat and kept the faith to the very end, continuing to do service to the Creator. In this way, he was and is, in the words of St. Paul, an Ambassador for Christ.

After his initial visit to Ave Maria in 2010, Novak wrote: “I have never lived in a more Catholic culture than Ave Maria’s — well, maybe once before, in St. Pius X Seminary during my college years at Stonehill College. … I must report that I have come to love Ave Maria deeply, and feel a very strong pull to live out my final years in such a place.” In Fall 2016, Michael Novak traveled to Washington D.C. for a visiting professorship at the Catholic University of America. When he fell ill during the Spring 2017 semester there, it was with heavy hearts that members of the Ave Maria community faced the fact that we would never see our beloved Ambassador again. And yet, in this moment of sadness, we recall his example and commit ourselves to keeping the faith, to picking ourselves up whenever we stumble and fall, in the knowledge that Heaven awaits, and there we will commune in the joy, beauty and love of God.

By Sarah Blanchard