Ave Maria University

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Ave Maria University
Former names
Ave Maria College
Motto Ex Corde Ecclesiae (Latin)
Veritatis Splendor (Latin)
Motto in English
From the Heart of the Church
The Splendor of Truth
Established 1998
Type Private
Affiliation Roman Catholic
Chancellor Tom Monaghan
President James Towey
Undergraduates 882 (2014)[1]
Postgraduates 94 (2014) [1]
Location Ave Maria, Florida, USA
Campus Rural, 1,000 acres (4.0 km2)
Colors Blue and Gold          
Athletics NAIAThe Sun Conference
Sports 15 varsity teams
Nickname Gyrenes
Affiliations ACCU
Website www.avemaria.edu

Ave Maria University (AMU) is a private Catholic university in Southwest Florida, United States, founded in 2003. The university moved to its permanent campus, situated in the planned town of Ave Maria, 17 miles (27 km) east of Naples, Florida, in August 2007. Ave Maria University shares its history with the former Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti, Michigan, which was founded in 1998 and closed in 2007.[2]

Tom Monaghan, Ave Maria's founder, has been criticized in the press for proposing that contraceptives, abortion, and pornography be banned from the university and the town itself.[3] In 2007, Monaghan drew criticism from Catholics both inside and outside the university when he removed theologian Joseph Fessio as provost.

The current enrollment of Ave Maria University is 1,291 students, 882 undergraduates and 94 graduate students[4] on the main campus as well as 315 postgrades law students at the Ave Maria School of Law.[5][6] The university had a satellite campus in Nicaragua called the Ave Maria University-Latin American Campus, but sold the campus to Keiser University on July 1, 2013.[7] Ave Maria ran the Nicaraguan campus for 13 years. The Ave Maria University fields athletic teams known as the Gyrenes. It is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and competes within The Sun Conference.

Academically, the university is rated in "Tier 2" by U.S. News & World Report, below 178 other liberal arts colleges in the US.[8] It is endorsed by the The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College.


Ave Maria College[edit]

Ave Maria College was founded by Catholic philanthropist and former Domino's Pizza owner and founder Tom Monaghan on March 19, 1998, occupying two former elementary school buildings in Ypsilanti, Michigan near the campus of Eastern Michigan University.[9]

Monaghan's goal was to create a Roman Catholic university faithful to the magisterium of the Catholic Church. His original vision was a Catholic college providing a liberal arts education in a Catholic environment and constructing a full college campus on his 280-acre (1.1 km2) property in nearby Ann Arbor, known as Domino's Farms.[9] The Ann Arbor campus also included plans for 25-story crucifix, a size about half the height of the Washington Monument.[9]

After being denied zoning approval by Ann Arbor Township to build a larger campus near Domino's Farms, Monaghan decided to move the college to Florida. While occupying an interim campus in Naples, Florida, he focused efforts on constructing a new campus and planned community nearby known as Ave Maria, Florida. While the infrastructure of the new campus and town were being completed in early 2007, the Ypsilanti campus was also closing at the end of the 2006–2007 academic year. Monaghan planned to move most of the staff transferred to the Florida location. The Michigan location remained open until students graduated or transferred, leaving just three students for the final year and a number of the remaining staff.[10]

After failing to secure the zoning rights in Ann Arbor, Monaghan initiated the founding of Ave Maria University with a donation of $250 million.[11][12] The Barron Collier family donated the land in southwest Florida for the campus, joining Monaghan in the enterprise as 50% partner. In August 2003, the University opened an interim campus in The Vineyards in Naples, Florida, enrolling some 100 undergraduate students, 75 of whom were freshmen.[11]

The university moved from the temporary facility to the new campus in 2007.[13] In its first year at the new campus the university enrolled about 450 undergraduates and 150 graduate students. Bishop Frank Dewane, the local Catholic ordinary, formally dedicated the university in 2008.[14]

Monaghan expects to continue expanding the university and hopes to one day have an enrollment over 5,000, Division I athletics and an academic reputation as "a Catholic Ivy,".[13] In 2011, James Towey, former Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and former President of Saint Vincent College, was named the president of Ave Maria University after a unanimous vote by the AMU Board of Trustees. He also assumed the role of CEO, in the place of Monaghan, who remains the Chancellor.[15]

Founder's goals[edit]

In a May 2004 speech, Monaghan expressed his wish to have the new town and university campus be free from pre-marital sex, contraceptives, abortion and pornography.[16] This elicited sharply critical statements from the international press, who saw such proposed restrictions as violations of civil liberties.[17] Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union branch in Florida, challenged the legality of the restriction of sales of contraceptives.[18] He said, "This is not just about the sale of contraceptives in the local pharmacy, it is about whether in an incorporated town there will be a fusion of religion and government."[19] An opinion column in The Wall Street Journal quoted an Ave Maria faculty member[according to whom?] who called it a "Catholic Jonestown".[16] Frances Kissling of Catholics for Choice compared Monaghan's civic vision to Islamic fundamentalism, and called it "un-American".[20] In response, Monaghan announced a milder form of civic planning in which the town could mostly grow on its own, except that it would not have sex shops or strip clubs, and store owners would be asked rather than ordered not to sell contraceptives or porn. Contraception and porn would still be banned from the university.[21]


Ave Maria University currently offers twelve undergraduate and three graduate degrees.[22] Undergraduate majors include Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physics, Business Administration, Classics and Early Christian Literature, Greek, Economics, History, Literature, Mathematics, Music with a concentration in Sacred Music, Philosophy, Politics, Theology and Psychology. Graduate programs include M.A. and Ph.D. studies in Theology and a Master of Theological Studies for non-traditional students.[23] The university also offers an undergraduate Pre-Theologate program, which prepares men for the seminary. Undergraduate students must complete all courses in the core curriculum, with more than 10 required courses, including a full year of Latin, courses in philosophy, theology, literature, science, math, history and political science. The philosophical emphasis of the school is Thomistic.

U.S. News & World Report assessed the university in their "Best Colleges 2012" list of "National Liberal Arts College Rankings". Ave Maria University was reported to have a student–teacher ratio of 12:1, with 696 undergraduate students paying an average of $19,440 in tuition and fees for the school year 2011–2012, with some also paying $8,350 for a dorm room and meals. The university's rating relative to other colleges was not published but was reported to be in "Tier 2", below 178 other American colleges ranked in "Tier 1".[8]

Law school[edit]

Although controlled by a board that is independent of AMU, the law school is closely allied with AMU. Ave Maria School of Law is a fully American Bar Association-accredited Catholic law school, located on a campus in Naples, Florida.[24] It has a current enrollment of 375 students and offers a Juris Doctor (J.D.) program that complements a traditional legal education based on the Socratic Method with an emphasis on how the law intersects with the Catholic intellectual tradition and natural law philosophy.[25]


In June 2010, the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) declared that Ave Maria had obtained "accredited membership" status. This allows the university to award bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees accredited by the SACS.[26] The university had previously received full accreditation from the American Academy for Liberal Education (AALE) in June 2008.[27] On October 7, 2011, the local ordinary, Bishop Frank Joseph Dewane, formally recognized the institution as a Catholic university pursuant to the code of canon law.

Study abroad[edit]

Ave Maria University initially had a study abroad program in two locations: the alpine village of Gaming, Austria, about an hour's drive from Vienna, and also in San Marcos, Nicaragua. Instruction was conducted in English. The Austrian program required an additional $1,750 beyond regular tuition, along with the added expense of airfare and ground transportation, while the Nicaraguan program required no additional tuition. The Nicaraguan program was closed in mid-2013.

To be eligible for study abroad, students must have spent at least one semester at Ave Maria University, be in good academic standing, and have no major infractions on their student life record.[28]


The Oratory is the center of the town of Ave Maria.

The new campus is located in the new town of Ave Maria, Florida, which continues to expand 17 miles (27 km) east of Naples in rural Collier County, Florida.[29][30] The town site occupies about 5,000 acres (20 km2), of which nearly 20 percent are designated for the campus.[29] The Ave Maria Oratory, a large Gothic-inspired structure that serves as the parish church and university chapel and is located at the center of town.[30] Several more master-planned communities are under construction or planned in the immediately surrounding area, north and south of the campus.[30] Managed wetlands lie north and west of the campus. Wildlife preservation and restoration projects have also been instituted on the site, to preserve a degree of its natural state.[29]


Ave Maria University won the 2007 'Digie Award' (Commercial Real Estate Digital Innovation Award).[31] The $24 million Oratory won the 2008 TCA Achievement Award[32] as well as an award from the American Institute of Steel Construction.[33]

Student life[edit]

Dormitories are organized into same-sex communities. There are six dorms on campus: Sebastian, Maria Goretti, St. Joseph, Xavier, and the Megadorm, a building which contains both John Paul II and Mother Teresa dormitories. Not all dormitories are used to house undergraduates; for example, Xavier has been used as a conference center and guest house. Quiet hours (9pm–10am Sunday-Thursday, 11pm–10am on Friday-Saturday)[34] are enforced by residence assistants and adjusted by residence directors, typically changed during midterms and finals. Members of the opposite sex are not permitted in the dorm rooms at any time, except to help with moving in and out of dorms, and must be escorted through the halls. In each dormitory, there are designated common areas where members of the opposite sex are allowed during certain hours of the day (9am-1am Sunday-Thursday, 9am-2am Friday-Saturday).[35]

Chapels are located in each of the six dorms, each containing a tabernacle housing the Eucharist, and each but the Megadorm containing an altar for Mass. Members of the clergy, who live on campus, assist in maintaining spiritual life. A perpetual adoration chapel was added to the Library in 2009.[36]

Social life on campus includes intramural sports, clubs, households, drama productions, talent shows, excursions, dances and many other events. Students are encouraged to organize and participate in social and recreational activities. Drinking is only permitted in private quarters to those 21 or over, or where deemed appropriate by the residence director(s). Men and women are encouraged to dress in modest attire and to avoid sexually suggestive or revealing attire. Televisions are only permitted in common areas, though students are allowed to use their computers to play videos in the dorms and common rooms. Social life also occurs at the pool, the volleyball court and the gazebos, all located near the dormitories.[37][38][citation needed]


Oratory interior at ave.jpg

Mass is celebrated in the Ave Maria Oratory, the landmark building on campus, which is located in the heart of the new town. The parish serves both the town and the university. Traditional liturgical actions are encouraged, including kneeling for communion, the use of Latin at Mass, the daily praying of the Angelus (especially at lunch and dinner time, when the Angelus bell is rung at noon and 6pm), the use of incense, and male-only altarboys at Mass. The chaplaincy has issued directives regarding the use of Latin, of the ad orientem posture (the priest facing the altar, the same direction as the congregation), and kneeling for communion. Other Masses are said in English with the priest facing the people. During the school year, there are three Masses celebrated each day of the week as well as one Mass on Saturdays and four on Sundays.[39]

Student organizations[edit]

Ave Maria's official news publication is The Gyrene Gazette.[40]

There are various campus organizations including: The Philosophy Club, Students for Life (Pro-life organization), Knights of Columbus, Sodalitas Pontificis Sancti Gregorii Magni – educates student body about the liturgy, Faith in Action – teaching the faith. Works with youth, Immokalee Outreach Club – help Immokalee residents in need, Operation Prayer Packages – Students pray for and send packages to troops overseas, St. Thomas More Debate Society, and Big Brothers Big Sisters among others. The university also offers intramural and club sport programs.[41]


Ave Maria Gyrenes logo

Ave Maria teams, nicknamed as the Gyrenes, are part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division II level, primarily competing in The Sun Conference, formerly known as the Florida Sun Conference (FSC); while its football team competes as an Independent. The women's lacrosse team will compete in the National Women's Lacrosse league (NWLL) in their first varsity season in the spring of 2015.[42] In 2011, it became the first college in southwestern Florida to field a football team.[43] The university sponsors seven men's and nine women's varsity sports:


On March 21, 2007, the provost of the university, Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., was dismissed by Monaghan for undisclosed reasons.[44] In a formal statement, Monaghan, in his role as chancellor, stated that the dismissal was because of "irreconcilable differences over administrative policies and practices."[45] Immediately, the school's first-ever student protests were mounted in support of Fessio.[3] Outside observers were critical: editor Philip F. Lawler of the conservative Catholic World News said the firing was "institutional suicide", that if a respected theologian such as Fessio could be fired then no others would want to fill the position.[3] Monaghan reinstated Fessio the next day as theologian-in-residence, though as of the 2009–2010 school year, he no longer resides at Ave Maria. Fessio said he was fired because of a conversation he had with Academic Vice President Jack Sites about administrative policies harming the university's finances.[46] He said his firing was "another mistake in a long series of unwise decisions" but that he would continue to guide students to AMU.[46] The provost position remains vacant.[47]

The 2008 financial crisis has taken a toll on Ave Maria's finances. Monaghan said in 2012 that Ave Maria's construction cost estimates doubled over three years, requiring the university to cut back on planned buildings. The troubled Florida real estate market also meant that Ave Maria School of Law had to shelve its plans for a building in Ave Maria, as its existing campus is worth less than was paid for it.[48]

In February 2012, Ave Maria made national news when it filed its lawsuit Ave Maria University v. Sebelius,[49] suing the government over the US Health and Human Services mandate by claiming that it would force the university to forego its religious freedom. It became the second college to do so, and was followed by several others, including the Franciscan University of Steubenville and the University of Notre Dame. The lawsuit is represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.[50] In June 2012, President Towey wrote that the university would "vigorously prosecute its lawsuit".[51]


  1. ^ a b http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/ave-maria-university-39413
  2. ^ "Ave Maria College in Michigan to Have 3 Students Next Year", Naples News, May 22, 2006. Accessed 2009-08-17
  3. ^ a b c Cooperman, Alan (March 25, 2007). "Magnate's Decisions Stir Controversy". The Washington Post: On Faith. Retrieved August 1, 2011. 
  4. ^ http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/ave-maria-university-39413/student-life
  5. ^ "AMU Enrollment". U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  6. ^ "AMSL Enrollment". U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  7. ^ http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2013/sep/24/whats-up-at-ave-maria-ave-maria-university/. Retrieved December 8, 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ a b "Ava Maria University". U.S. News & World Report. September 12, 2011. Retrieved March 9, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b c Cox, Jennifer (August 20, 2007). "In the beginning: Michigan town feels 'duped' by college". Naples Daily News. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  10. ^ Buzzacco-Foerster, Jenna (May 22, 2006). "Ave Maria College in Michigan to have 3 students next year". Naples Daily News. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  11. ^ a b "About". Ave Maria University. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  12. ^ Hansen, Susan (July 30, 2006). "Our Lady of Discord". New York Times. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  13. ^ a b Marklein, Mary Beth (August 1, 2007). "Catholic college crosses new ground". USA Today. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Bishop dedicates Ave Maria University Oratory", Catholic Online, 2008-Apr-05. Accessed 2008-04-23
  15. ^ "New President For Ave Maria University"
  16. ^ a b Riley, Naomi Schaefer (November 11, 2005). "Bringing a Law School Down". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 14, 2011. 
  17. ^ Giagnoni, Silvia (2011). Fields of Resistance: The Struggle of Florida's Farmworkers for Justice. Haymarket Books. p. 124. ISBN 1-60846-093-2. 
  18. ^ "'Pizza pope' builds a Catholic heaven". The Sunday Times (London). February 26, 2006. Retrieved August 14, 2011. 
  19. ^ Glanton, Dahleen (April 3, 2006). "Pizza mogul uses his fortune to deliver a town to Catholics: Law forbids future Fla. community from barring birth control, porn". The Baltimore Sun. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 14, 2011. 
  20. ^ Skoloff, Brian (March 2, 2006). "Fla. town being built on religion looks to ban birth control, porn". Boston.com. Associated Press. Retrieved August 14, 2011. 
  21. ^ Unger, Brian (March 6, 2006). "Good and Bad in Florida's Catholic City". The Unger Report (NPR). Retrieved August 14, 2011. 
  22. ^ "Academics". Ave Maria University. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  23. ^ "The Institute for Pastoral Theology". Ave Maria University. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  24. ^ American Bar Association Grants Full Accreditation to Ave Maria School of Law [1]
  25. ^ "AMSL Curriculum". Ave Maria University. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  26. ^ "Ave Maria earns accreditation". WINK-TV. June 28, 2010. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  27. ^ "Accreditation". Ave Maria University. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  28. ^ "Study Abroad". Ave Maria University. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  29. ^ a b c "Town Overview". Ave Maria University. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  30. ^ a b c Marklein, Mary Beth (July 23, 2007). "Birth of clean town: Ave Maria". USA Today. Retrieved June 10, 2011. 
  31. ^ "Ave Maria University Wins 2007 'Digie Award'". Ave Maria University. June 8, 2007. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  32. ^ [2][dead link]
  33. ^ Dillon, Liam (June 25, 2008). "Oratory at Ave Maria receives architecture award". Naples Daily News. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  34. ^ Ave Maria University Student Handbook, 2012-2011
  35. ^ Ave Maria University Student Handbook, 2010-2011
  36. ^ "The residence halls are equipped with...chapels." from http://www.avemaria.edu/CampusLife/ResidenceHalls.aspx; Library info from article http://www.aveherald.com/news/ave-maria-news/334-perpetual-adoration-chapel-opens-at-amu.html
  37. ^ Ave Maria University Student Handbook
  38. ^ http://www.avemaria.edu/CampusLife/IntramuralSports/CoEdVolleyball.aspx
  39. ^ As of Spring 2012: http://www.avemaria.edu/Portals/0/Mass%20%20Liturgy%20Spring%20Schedule%202012.pdf
  40. ^ "The Gyrene Gazette". Ave Maria University. Retrieved Dec 10, 2012. 
  41. ^ "Student Life". Ave Maria University. Archived from the original on 13 May 2011. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  42. ^ "Members". NAIA. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  43. ^ Wommack, Woody (February 12, 2010). "Ave Maria University hires football coach; inaugural season in 2011". Naples Daily News. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  44. ^ "Controversy Shakes Ave Maria University". Catholic world report (Ignatius Press) 17: 211. 2007. 
  45. ^ Staff (March 21, 2007). "Top Ave Maria official dismissed". Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  46. ^ a b Fr. Joseph Fessio, "Breaking: Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., dismissed from Ave Maria University", Ignatius Insight Scoop, 2009
  47. ^ Miguel, Tracy X.; Zoldan, Denise (March 22, 2007). "Ave Maria resurrects fired Father Fessio with new job". Naples Daily News. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  48. ^ Sparks, Evan (Spring 2012). "New U.". Philanthropy. Retrieved 5 June 2012. 
  49. ^ http://www.becketfund.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Complaint-Ave-Maria-Time-Stamped.pdf
  50. ^ Presidential Statement, "Ave Maria University will continue to vigorously prosecute its lawsuit against the Federal government’s attack on the University’s religious liberty." Found at http://www.avemaria.edu/Portals/0/Images/Kevins'%20Images/statement%20on%20student%20insurance%20-%20may%2021%202012.pdf
  51. ^ Towey, Jim (June 1, 2012). "Jim Towey: Obama administration's requirement for insurers to cover abortion-inducing drugs not only morally reprehensible, but it will drive college costs up for even more students". TC Palm. Scripps Newspaper Group. Retrieved June 17, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 26°20′11″N 81°26′17″W / 26.336336°N 81.438053°W / 26.336336; -81.438053