Jim Towey

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Jim Towey
James Towey.jpg
Former Director White House Office of Faith Based Initiatives
Nationality American
Education B.S. and J.D.
Alma mater Florida State University
Occupation President and CEO of Ave Maria University
Spouse(s) Mary
Children Five

Harry James Towey (/ˈti/), better known as Jim Towey, served as Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI) from February 2002 to May 2006. During his tenure at the OFBCI, Towey sought to remove impediments to faith-based social service organizations receiving government funding.

Towey served as senior adviser to U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Oregon) from 1982 to 1988, and as director of Florida's health and human services agency under Gov. Lawton Chiles (D) from 1993 to 1995. In 1996 he founded Aging with Dignity, a national non-profit organization advocating for end-of-life planning and care. He coauthored the document Five Wishes, an advance directive with over 20 million copies in circulation as of 2018.[1] Towey served as the sixteenth President of Saint Vincent College (Latrobe, Pennsylvania) from July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2010. He has served as President and CEO of Ave Maria University since 2011.

Background and personal life[edit]

Towey grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, where he graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in 1974.[2] He earned a Bachelor of Science from Florida State University in 1978, and a Juris Doctor from Florida State University College of Law in 1981. He is a Roman Catholic and a member of the Knights of Columbus.[3]

Towey and his wife Mary have five children: James Marion, Joseph Marius, Maximilian Marian, John Mariano and Marie Therese.[4]

Political career[edit]

Aide to Hatfield (1982–88) and Chiles (1990–91)[edit]

Towey served in the office of Senator Mark Hatfield as legislative director and legal counsel between 1982 and 1988.[5][6] Towey shared Hatfield's support for the pro-life movement.[7] He joined the staff of Florida Governor Lawton Chiles in 1990.[8]

Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (1991–95)[edit]

In December 1991, Chiles made Towey the Miami district administrator of the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS). In August 1992, after Hurricane Andrew struck Dade County, Towey worked to provide food stamps to those displaced by the storm.[9] Chiles appointed Towey Secretary of the 40,000 employee HRS agency in 1993.[10] Under Towey, the HRS instituted a policy of denying foster care and other services to abused or abandoned undocumented minors.[11] Towey was removed from office in 1995, after the Florida State Senate refused to reconfirm his appointment.[8][12]

White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (2002–06)[edit]

On February 1, 2002, President George W. Bush named Towey the Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.[13] The president's brother, Jeb Bush, was a personal friend of Towey[14] and had recommended him for the office.[15] Towey was initially named Deputy Assistant to the President, a less senior rank than that held by his predecessor at the OFBCI, John J. DiIulio.[16] He reported to John Bridgeland, the director of the USA Freedom Corps.[17][18] In January 2005, he was promoted to Assistant to the President[19] and began reporting directly to President Bush.[20]

During his service as faith czar (the informal name for Towey's White House position) Towey decried what he termed "militant secularism": the view that religious considerations should be excluded from government affairs and public education.[21] He helped implement 'charitable choice' policies opening federal funding for drug treatment, mentoring, housing and other programs to small faith-based non-profit organizations and oversaw other church-state and religious liberty issues.[22] Towey supported proposed legislation increasing tax incentives for charitable donation and extending the ministerial exemption to faith-based organizations.[22]

Humanitarian work[edit]

Legal counsel for Mother Teresa (1985–97)[edit]

Towey was a U.S. legal counsel to the Missionaries of Charity for 12 years (from 1985 until Mother Teresa's death).[5] As Mother Teresa's attorney, he helped to ensure people were not using her name to raise money without her permission, assisted in establishing AIDS clinics and homeless shelters, and coordinated immigration matters for her nuns.[5] He also volunteered full-time for a total of nearly two years, living in one of her missions in Tijuana, Mexico in 1988[23] and assisting at her home for people with AIDS in Washington, D.C.[24]

In an August 2009 op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal, Towey argued that the Obama administration was attempting to cut costs for the medical treatment of veterans by providing them with a "death book" which pressured the veterans to "forgo critical care".[25] In an appearance on the Fox News Sunday television show, Towey charged that the main author of the booklet, Robert Pearlman, was an advocate of assisted suicide, and that the booklet was being used to give "end of life" counseling to soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.[26] On the show, Tammy Duckworth, Assistant Secretary for the Veteran's Administration, responded that printed copies of the booklet had been pulled from the shelves in 2007 and that the Obama administration was revising it.[26] Duckworth also said that veterans were welcome to spend $5 to purchase Towey's competing book on end-of-life discussions.[26][27]

Towey led Aging with Dignity until 2002, when he was named director of the OFBCI.[28] He returned to consulting for the group in 2010–11,[6] and remains a member of its board of directors.[28]

Aging with Dignity (1996–2002)[edit]

In 1996, Towey established the non-profit organization Aging with Dignity. Together with Kate Callahan, a Miami nurse, he co-authored the original version of the Five Wishes booklet, a combined advance directive and living will.[29] The aim of the document, which Towey called "the living will with a heart and soul",[30] is to help people express how they want to be treated if they are seriously ill and unable to speak for themselves.[1] Over 20 million copies of Aging with Dignity's booklet have been distributed worldwide by more than 40,000 organizations.[1]

Positions in academia[edit]

Saint Vincent College (2006–10)[edit]

Towey became the sixteenth President of Saint Vincent College, a small Catholic university in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, on July 1, 2006.[4] During his tenure as President, Saint Vincent College made the Young America's Foundation list of top ten conservative colleges in the United States for the first time.[31][32] Prior to his tenure, the school had received honorable mention on the list.[33]

Towey was also involved in other areas of academia during his time at Saint Vincent. He sat on Catholic University of America's jury to select the recipient of the 2007 Opus prize,[34] and was a member of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, an accreditation advisory body for the Department of Education, between 2007 and 2008.[35]

Towey faced difficulties in his relationships with faculty members at Saint Vincent.[36] He presided over a somewhat controversial reaccreditation of the college by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools in 2007.[36] In February 2008, nearly three quarters of the tenured faculty signed a letter of concern to the college's board of directors regarding Towey.[32] In April 2008, Towey attributed much of the dissension to a clash of cultures with a predominantly Benedictine faculty unaccustomed to rapid change, and to the fact that he was "new to academia".[32] Towey stepped down as President on June 30, 2010.[37]

Ave Maria University (2011–present)[edit]

Towey assumed the role of President of Ave Maria University from Nicholas Healy on July 1, 2011.

Rift statement[edit]

On August 29, 2018, Towey issued a statement in response to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò's August 25th letter.[38][39] In this letter, Viganò accused Pope Francis and other members of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church of having known of then-cardinal Theodore McCarrick's alleged sexual misconduct and yet having failed to enforce sanctions against him.[40] In his response, Towey characterized the Viganò allegations as baseless, calculated to harm the reputation of the pope, and founded upon a flawed understanding of religious conservatism.[41] Towey's remarks met with a swift backlash both from Ave Maria University alumni and from other Catholics, many of whom interpreted the statement as dismissive of the victims of the alleged sexual abuse.[42][43] On August 30, 2018, Towey revised the rift statement,[44] removing an allegation that Cardinal Raymond Burke's support for the Viganò letter was motivated by Burke's frustrated career ambitions,[45] and issued a second statement in which he affirmed his fidelity to the Catholic Church and sympathy for victims of sexual abuse and exhorted the critics of Pope Francis to resolve their differences privately, rather than through the issuing of public statements.[46]

Public recognition and awards[edit]

Towey has received honors for his public service including six honorary doctoral degrees, the Omicron Delta Kappa Grad Made Good Award from the Florida State University Alumni Association,[47] and the Archbishop John Carroll Award from the Archdiocese of Miami.[4][better source needed] Towey was awarded the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Papal Cross by Pope John Paul II on September 5, 2000, the third anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa.[4][better source needed] He was recognized by President Bush for his work to improve the lives of those in need.[3] The Cuban Association of the Order of Malta awarded Towey the 2009 Tuitio Fidei Award for his work with the poor and infirm.[48]


  1. ^ a b c Sonnenberg, Maria (4 September 2018). "Here's how to 'Finish Strong' when your time is up". Florida Today. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Around the diocese" (PDF). St. Augustine Catholic. Vol. 11 no. 4. Victor Galeone. March–April 2002. p. 26. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 August 2003. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  3. ^ a b "President discusses compassionate conservatism in Dallas", georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov; August 3, 2004; accessed February 6, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d "Jim Towey Biography". stvincent.edu. Saint Vincent College. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Bumiller, Elisabeth (13 May 2002). "White House Letter; Faith, Politics and One Eye on Heaven". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  6. ^ a b Husty, Denes (4 April 2011). "New CEO gets early start at Ave Maria". News-Press.
  7. ^ Fendall, Lon (2008). Stand Alone Or Come Home: Mark Hatfield as an Evangelical and a Progressive. Barclay Press. p. 152. ISBN 9781594980152. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  8. ^ a b Cooperman, Alan (15 February 2005). "A Faith-Based Mission for Change". Washington Post. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  9. ^ Rohter, Larry (27 August 1992). "HURRICANE ANDREW; Supplies Flow In for Stricken Areas, But Delivery Is Slowed by Wreckage". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  10. ^ Kennedy, John (8 July 1993). "Former Chiles Aide To Head Troubled Hrs". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  11. ^ Salisbury, Carolyn S. (1996). "The Legality of Denying State Foster Care to Illegal Alien Children: Are Abused and Abandoned Children the First Casualties in America's War on Immigration". University of Miami Law Review. 50 (3). Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  12. ^ Sexton, Christine (11 March 2016). "Before John Armstrong, there was Jim Towey". Politico. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  13. ^ "President names Towey as Director of the Faith-Based & Community Initiatives", February 1, 2002. Jim Towey White House bio.
  14. ^ Stanley, Tiffany; Alberta, Tim (27 March 2015). "Inside Jeb Bush's Stealth Campaign to Woo Christian Conservatives". National Journal. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  15. ^ Buzzacco-Foerster, Jenna (1 February 2015). "Southwest Floridians in former Gov. Jeb Bush's inner circle as he considers presidential run". Naples Daily News. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  16. ^ Solomon, Lewis D. (2003). In God We Trust?: Faith-based Organizations and the Quest to Solve America's Social Ills. Lexington Books. p. 167. ISBN 9780739106303. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  17. ^ Black, Amy E. (2004). Of Little Faith: The Politics of George W. Bush's Faith-Based Initiatives. Georgetown University Press. pp. 217–218. ISBN 978-1589013827. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  18. ^ Kuo, David (2006). Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction. Simon and Schuster. pp. 197–201. ISBN 9781416542384.
  19. ^ "Personnel Announcement". georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  20. ^ Black, Amy E.; Koopman, Douglas L. (20 August 2007). "Politics of Faith-Based Initiatives". In Rozell, Mark J.; Whitney, Gleaves. Religion and the Bush Presidency. Springer. p. 172. ISBN 9780230607354.
  21. ^ "Faith Czar Towey blasts 'militant secularism' at Catholic men's event". Church & State. Americans United for Separation of Church and State. May 2005. Archived from the original on 9 September 2009. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  22. ^ a b Black, Amy E. (2004). Of Little Faith: The Politics of George W. Bush's Faith-Based Initiatives. Georgetown University Press. pp. 65–70. ISBN 978-1589013827. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  23. ^ Opincar, Abe (15 December 1988). "Do Long Journeys of Faith Take Only an Instant?". San Diego Reader. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  24. ^ "Providing faith and solace to HIV/AIDS patients". Our Sunday Visitor Catholic Publishing Company (4 November 2007). Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  25. ^ "The Death Book for Veterans", The Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2009.
  26. ^ a b c Berger, Joseph and Henry, Derrick. "Lieberman Suggests Health Care Reform May Have to Wait", New York Times, August 24, 2009; accessed February 6, 2014.
  27. ^ Chris Wallace, Jim Towey, Tammy Duckworth (23 August 2009). "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace".
  28. ^ a b "Jim Towey - Aging with Dignity". Aging with Dignity. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  29. ^ "Innovative Will That Began In Florida Goes National". Orlando Sentinel. Knight Ridder Newspapers. 25 October 1998. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  30. ^ Silva, Mark, "Living Will With Heart Now Available", Miami Herald, July 24, 1997.
  31. ^ "2006-2007 Top Ten Conservative Colleges". yaf.org. Young America's Foundation. Archived from the original on 7 February 2007. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  32. ^ a b c Lederman, Doug. "Too Catholic, Even for Many Monks", 'Inside Higher Ed, April 22, 2008. Archived by WebCite.
  33. ^ "Group names top 10 conservative colleges". 16 December 2005. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  34. ^ "Jurors Selected to Award $1 Million Humanitarian Prize". publicaffairs.cua.edu. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  35. ^ Lederman, Doug (1 May 2007). "Stacking the Deck?". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  36. ^ a b Garazik, Richard "St. Vincent faculty quietly revolts", Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 3, 2008. Archived by WebCite
  37. ^ "Saint Vincent College President Jim Towey to Step Down at End of Academic Year". Saint Vincent College. 2009. Archived from the original on 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2009-10-14.
  38. ^ Towey, H. James (29 August 2018). "Statement by President Jim Towey Regarding The Rift Within The Church". Ave Maria University. Archived from the original on 29 August 2018. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  39. ^ Hammerschlag, Annika (29 August 2018). "Ave Maria University president issues statement in support of Pope Francis". Naples Daily News. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  40. ^ Pentin, Edward (25 August 2018). "Ex-Nuncio Accuses Pope Francis of Failing to Act on McCarrick's Abuse". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  41. ^ "Ave Maria president denounces 'defiance' of pope by 'conservative Catholics'". Catholic News Agency. 30 August 2018. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  42. ^ Hammerschlag, Annika (6 September 2018). "Ave Maria University president criticized for his defense of Pope Francis". Naples Daily News. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  43. ^ Cummings McLean, Dorothy (30 August 2018). "Ave Maria University president slams Viganò, Cardinal Burke". Life Site. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  44. ^ "Ave Maria president amends statement denouncing 'defiance' of pope". Catholic News Agency. 31 August 2018. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  45. ^ Cummings McLean, Dorothy (31 August 2018). "Ave Maria University president apologizes for Cdl. Burke hit but doubles down on Viganò". Life Site. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  46. ^ Towey, H. James (30 August 2018). "President Towey's letter to friends of Ave Maria University". Ave Maria University. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  47. ^ "Grads Made Good". FSU Alumni Association.
  48. ^ "White Cross Gala 2009". Order of Malta Cuba. Retrieved 10 October 2018.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Buddy MacKay
Florida Secretary of Children and Families
Succeeded by
Ed Feaver
Preceded by
John DiIulio, Jr.
Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
February 1, 2002–May 31, 2006
Succeeded by
Jay Hein
Academic offices
Preceded by
James F. Will
President of Saint Vincent College
July 1, 2006–June 30, 2010
Succeeded by
Br. Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B.
Preceded by
Nicholas J. Healy
President of Ave Maria University
July 1, 2011–present