Jim Towey

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Jim Towey
Jim Towey.jpg
Towey in 2002
President and CEO of Ave Maria University
Assumed office
July 1, 2011
Preceded byNicholas J. Healy
President of Saint Vincent College
In office
July 1, 2006 – June 30, 2010
Preceded byJames F. Will
Succeeded byBr. Norman W. Hipps, OSB
Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
In office
February 1, 2002 – June 2, 2006
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byJohn J. DiIulio Jr.
Succeeded byJay Hein
Secretary of the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services
In office
July 7, 1993 – June 9, 1995
GovernorLawton Chiles
Preceded byBuddy MacKay
Succeeded byEd Feaver
Personal details
Born (1956-10-01) October 1, 1956 (age 63)
NationalityAmerican
Spouse(s)
Mary Towey (m. 1992)
ChildrenFive
EducationB.S. and J.D.
Alma materFlorida State University

Harry James Towey II (/ˈti/; born October 1, 1956) served as Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI) from February 2002 to May 2006.

Towey was appointed secretary of the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services by Governor Lawton Chiles in 1993, and ousted by the Florida Senate in 1995. He founded Aging with Dignity, a nonprofit advocacy organization for senior citizens, in 1996 and coauthored the end-of-life planning document Five Wishes. Towey was President of Saint Vincent College from 2006 to 2010. He has served as President and CEO of Ave Maria University since 2011.

Personal life[edit]

Towey was born on October 1, 1956, in Terre Haute, Indiana,[1][2] and named after his paternal uncle, a Catholic priest.[3] He graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1974,[4] and received a B.S. in accounting in 1978 and a J.D. in 1981 from Florida State University.[5] During his seven years at FSU, he participated in the men's basketball program as a student manager and graduate assistant.[6][7] He met his wife, Mary, while volunteering for the Missionaries of Charity; the two married in 1992 and have five children.[8][9] Towey is a member of the Knights of Columbus.[10]

Career[edit]

Aide to Hatfield (1982–88)[edit]

Towey worked for Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield as legislative director and legal counsel between 1982 and 1988.[11][12] Towey shared Hatfield's support for the pro-life movement.[13] According to Lionel Rosenblatt, a member of the State Department's Bureau of Refugee Programs and advocate for Indochinese refugees, Towey's work for Hatfield prompted the White House to issue a 1983 National Security Study Directive ordering the review of refugee applications previously rejected by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.[14]

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

In 1985, while travelling for Hatfield, Towey met Mother Teresa in Calcutta. Shortly after, he began working as a U.S. legal counsel to the Missionaries of Charity.[11] He arranged immigration matters for the order's nuns[15] and prevented the unauthorised use of Teresa's name and image.[16][17] Towey volunteered full-time with the order for a total of nearly two years between 1988 and 1990, in Tijuana, Mexico,[18] and at an AIDS hospice in Washington, D.C.[19] In 1997, Towey represented Teresa in a dispute with a Tennessee coffeeshop that had publicized a coincidental resemblance between her and one of their baked goods (the 'nun bun') and had begun to sell merchandise featuring the bun.[20]

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

Two people standing outside a large black tent, beside a sign reading 'HRS public health services. Sick call Enfermeria 8am–6pm. Emergencies Emergencia 24 hours.'
An HRS public health clinic in a tent city housing victims of Hurricane Andrew, photographed in November 1992

Towey reentered the political sphere in 1990 as aide to Lawton Chiles, the newly elected governor of Florida, assisting him as a liaison to religious communities.[8][21] In December 1991, Chiles made Towey the Miami district administrator of the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS).[22] In August 1992, after Hurricane Andrew struck Dade County, Towey oversaw the (at that time) largest mass distribution of food stamps in U.S. history, amounting to over US$81 million in emergency aid.[8][23] Of the US$25 million in stamps distributed by the HRS within a ten-day period following the storm, he estimated that US$1 million had been received fraudulently.[24]

Chiles appointed Towey HRS Secretary in 1993.[22] Under Towey, the HRS instituted a policy of denying foster care and other services to abused or abandoned undocumented minors, while the state of Florida pursued a lawsuit against the federal government for costs associated with illegal immigration.[25] Towey defended this policy as necessary to deter asylum-seekers and to ensure adequate services for citizen children, telling The New York Times in 1994, "We can only care as much as the money we are given."[26]

Towey was removed from office in 1995, after the Florida State Senate refused to reconfirm his appointment.[5][27] Towey's ouster, while not unprecedented, was unusual: he was the first governor's appointee since 1975 to be rejected by the senate.[28] The next agency head to be removed by the senate was John Armstrong, the state Surgeon General, in 2016.[27]

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][30] As of 2018, over 20 million copies of Aging with Dignity's booklet have been distributed worldwide by more than 40,000 organizations.[31]

Towey led Aging with Dignity until 2002, when he was named director of the OFBCI.[32] He rejoined the group's board of directors after he left the White House,[32][33] and has worked for the group as a paid consultant since 2007,[33] in addition to his duties at Saint Vincent College and Ave Maria University.

In an August 2009 op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal and a subsequent appearance on the Fox News Sunday television show, Towey argued that the Obama administration was attempting to cut costs for the medical treatment of veterans by providing soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with the end-of-life booklet Your Life, Your Choices. He maintained that the booklet was written by an advocate of assisted suicide and pressured the veterans to "forgo critical care".[34][35] 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.[35] Duckworth also said that veterans were welcome to spend $5 to purchase Towey's competing book on end-of-life discussions.[35][36]

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

Towey stands at a microphone with a picture of the White House behind him.
Towey at a White House press conference for faith-based initiatives in 2003

On February 1, 2002, President George W. Bush named Towey the Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.[37][38] Jeb Bush, the president's brother, was a personal friend of Towey[39] and had recommended him for the office.[40] 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.[41] He reported to John Bridgeland, the director of the USA Freedom Corps.[42] In January 2005, he was promoted to Assistant to the President[43] and began reporting directly to President Bush.[44]

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.[45] He helped implement 'charitable choice' policies opening federal funding for prison counseling, addiction counseling, mentoring, and other programs to small faith-based non-profit organizations.[46] Towey supported proposed legislation increasing tax incentives for charitable donation and extending the ministerial exemption to faith-based organizations.[46]

In a session of "Ask the Whitehouse" dated November 26, 2003, Towey stated in response to a question about pagan faith-based organizations:

I haven't run into a pagan faith-based group yet, much less a pagan group that cares for the poor! Once you make it clear to any applicant that public money must go to public purposes and can't be used to promote ideology, the fringe groups lose interest. Helping the poor is tough work and only those with loving hearts seem drawn to it.[47]

Pagans reacted angrily to the label "fringe group", the suggestion that pagans are uncompassionate, the idea that they would apply for funding only to promote ideology, and the perceived exclusion of pagan organizations in the statement.[48]

Saint Vincent College (2006–10)[edit]

President Bush and several other men wearing academic garb
President George W. Bush delivered the 2007 commencement address for Saint Vincent College. Right to left: Bush, Towey, Archbishop Donald Wuerl, and SVC board president J. Christopher Donahue.

Towey became the sixteenth President of Saint Vincent College, a small Catholic college in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, on July 1, 2006.[49] Under Towey, Saint Vincent College made the Young America's Foundation list of top ten conservative colleges in the United States for the first time in 2007.[50][51] The school had previously received honorable mention on the list.[52] Towey 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.[53] He was one of the initial signatories to the 2009 Manhattan Declaration, a religious-freedom manifesto.[54][55]

Towey's relationship with faculty members at Saint Vincent was strained and often contentious.[56][57] Some believed him to be exerting undue influence over matters such as hiring or the college's 2007 reaccreditation process.[49][56][57] In February 2008, nearly three quarters of the tenured faculty signed a letter of concern to the college's board of directors regarding Towey, stating that he had shown "systematic and pervasive disregard for collegiality and shared governance" and had "brought about an unparalleled crisis".[51][58] Towey attributed 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".[51]

Towey stepped down as President on June 30, 2010, one year before his contract ended.[49] In the interval between his departure from Saint Vincent and his hiring by Ave Maria University in 2011, Towey worked as a consultant for Aging with Dignity and the Papal Foundation.[9]

Ave Maria University (2011–present)[edit]

Mike Pence stands at a podium in the foreground; Towey is seated behind him, looking on.
Towey watches Mike Pence deliver a speech at AMU in 2019[59]

Towey assumed the role of President of Ave Maria University from Nicholas Healy on July 1, 2011.[12]

In 2013, Ave Maria University launched the Mother Teresa Project, a program for students to learn about the life of Teresa and participate in charitable works and mission trips.[60] Towey obtained the approval of the Missionaries of Charity through his previous association with their founder.[61] In 2014, the university opened a Mother Teresa museum featuring her letters and possessions, and storyboards with photos from her life.[62][63]

In 2016, Towey was sued for alleged involvement in manipulating the funds of Rhodora J. Donahue Academy of Ave Maria, a private K–12 school affiliated at the time with AMU.[64][65][66] Shortly before Towey's scheduled deposition in 2017, AMU agreed to sell Donahue to the Diocese of Venice for US$1 million—less than one fifth of the school building's appraised value—and the lawsuit was withdrawn.[67][68]

In 2018, Towey was sued for breach of contract by a former AMU professor who alleged that he had been fired for reporting sexual harassment of his colleagues by another AMU employee.[69][70]

On October 9, 2018, Towey announced that he would step down as President of Ave Maria on June 30, 2020.[71]

Response to the Viganò letter[edit]

On August 29, 2018, Towey issued a statement in response to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò's August 25 letter.[72][73] 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. Viganò wrote that Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, had imposed sanctions on McCarrick that Francis had failed to enforce.[74] 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:[72][75]

There is nothing new about the rift between Pope Francis and some conservative members of the Church hierarchy. ... The release of the Archbishop’s manifesto seemed timed to inflict the maximum damage possible to the Pope’s credibility, and the choreographed chorus of support by others in league with them, was just as troubling. Contrary to the popular narrative, most conservative Catholics are not following suit and embracing their defiance, and certainly not on our campus. ... Those so-called conservative Catholics who now challenge the Holy Father’s legitimate authority and openly undermine his papacy, are betraying their own principles and hurting the Church they profess to love. They should stop now.

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.[76][77] The Cardinal Newman Society responded that Towey "unfairly attacks credible, faithful Catholic leaders ... There are serious scandals that can no longer be ignored."[78] On August 30, Towey revised the statement, removing an allegation that Cardinal Raymond Burke's support for the Viganò letter was motivated by Burke's frustrated career ambitions, and issued a second statement reiterating his opposition to public criticism of the pope.[79][80]

Awards and recognition[edit]

References and sources[edit]

References[edit]

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Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Jim Towey at Wikimedia Commons
Political offices
Preceded by
Buddy MacKay
Florida Secretary of Health and Rehabilitative Services
1993–1995
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
Incumbent