Jim Towey to step down as president of Ave Maria University in 2020


October 8, 2018 Ave Maria, Florida Michael Timmis, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Ave Maria University, announced that Jim Towey will be stepping down as president on June 30, 2020.  Towey began as AMU’s second president in July 2011.  Timmis also announced that in the summer of 2019 the Board would begin a national search for Towey’s successor.

Timmis praised Towey’s leadership and extolled the University’s many achievements during the last seven years.  “Jim Towey stabilized Ave Maria during a time of crisis, and ushered in an era of stability and growth,” Timmis said.  “Had it ever come to a vote the Board would have extended his term because he’s done such a great job, but Jim thought the time was right to step down when his contract ends, and transition leadership.”

Among the significant accomplishments of Towey’s presidency, Timmis cited:

  • Over 70% increase in total undergraduate enrollment (fall 2018 headcount is 1,071); the entering class prior to Towey’s appointment was 248 and this year’s was 413 (a record high)
  • $80 million raised from donors (none of whom attended AMU); Towey personally cultivated and stewarded over 20 seven-figure gifts
  • Successful completion of $60 million “Building on Faith” capital campaign
  • New $13 million multi-purpose Prince Building that is paid for and houses AMU’s nursing program and America’s only Mother Teresa Museum
  • An increase in the number of majors from 10 to 34
  • Successful 10-year reaccreditation through 2025
  • Official recognition as a Catholic university
  • Faculty-led revision of core curriculum that strengthened AMU’s liberal arts education, and the flourishing of the Honors Program instituted five years ago

Timmis also recognized the difficult but necessary steps Towey took to restructure AMU’s finances and improve campus life, particularly during the early years of his administration when the University faced numerous daunting challenges.  These included:

  • 2011 budget cut of $3.6 million in spending and the elimination of dozens of positions through an urgent streamlining initiative
  • Refinanced AMU’s $57 million debt in 2013 and earned an investment-grade credit rating and “stable outlook” from Standard & Poor’s
  • Sold or discontinued costly and unsustainable programs (Nicaragua campus, Institute for Pastoral Theology, and Foundation for the Arts) that had chronic deficits
  • Transferred ownership of the iconic Ave Maria town church and Rhodora J. Donahue Academy to the Diocese of Venice
  • Reinstituted open door inter-visitation in residence halls to allow more socializing among students without sacrificing Catholic values
  • Modernized campus security with new lighting, emergency alerts, and key card systems

Founder of the University and Chancellor Thomas S. Monaghan joined Timmis in commending Towey for his accomplishments.  “Building on the base that was established, Jim’s leadership took the University to the next level, and I am grateful,” Monaghan said.  “With the capital campaign and the Prince building completed, the curriculum expanded and with record enrollment, it seems like the right time for an orderly transition at the top.”

Towey thanked Timmis, Monaghan and AMU trustees for their unwavering support, and praised the members of the University community for joining him in what he described as “this work of grace that is Ave Maria University.”  Towey added, “This isn’t my university or even Tom’s university.  This is Our Lady’s University.  For the next 20 months I will do all I can to position the next president to raise AMU to new heights.”

Towey pointed to the burnishing of the Catholic identity of Ave Maria as among his most cherished and satisfying achievements.  He cited:

  • AMU’s successful fight in Federal Court against the Obama administration’s attack on religious liberty; AMU was the first organization to file a lawsuit after President Obama announced his controversial contraceptive services plan in February 2012
  • The Mother Teresa service project he founded with a $2 million grant that sends AMU students to her missions in India, Haiti, Mexico, Uganda and other countries, as well as to the poor in Immokalee and care facilities for the elderly in Naples
  • The 6 consecutive years he accompanied 12 AMU students on a mission trip to Calcutta (his wife Mary led trips to Port au Prince, Mexico City, and Puerto Rico)
  • The 24/7 exposition of the Eucharist he instituted four years ago, last year’s opening of the 100-seat campus chapel with two daily Masses, and the Our Lady of Guadalupe garden and footbridge on the east side of the canal

Student Government Association President Mary Rexroat, a senior, thanked him and Mrs. Towey for their service and good example.  “They live their Catholic faith and vocation so beautifully and inspire students to want to imitate them,” she commented.  “I am glad we have them with us for a good while longer.”

Timmis expressed optimism when asked about AMU’s future.  “I am confident that we will identify the right person who can build on the strong foundation that Towey leaves as his legacy,” he added.

Ave Maria University established its permanent campus near Naples, FL in 2007, and offers its students excellent academics in an authentic Catholic environment with a focus on formative learning to grow the spirit, mind and body.  Ave Maria offers a strong liberal arts education with 34 majors, including programs in business, nursing, education, and the arts and sciences.  University enrollment consists of approximately 1,100 students from 45 states and 20 countries, and a student body that is approximately 85% Catholic, 25% minority, and evenly-divided between men and women.  Ave Maria’s state-of-the-art campus resides on 300 acres in Southwest Florida with the facilities to support all aspects of residency, faith and growth for the entire student body.  Tuition and room and board at the University ranks among the most affordable of its peer private schools and is well below the national average.

Ave Maria University Mission: Ave Maria University is a Catholic, liberal arts institution of higher learning devoted to Mary the Mother of God, inspired by St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta, and dedicated to the formation of joyful, intentional followers of Jesus Christ through Word and Sacrament, Scholarship and Service.

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