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Newsflash: Ave Maria is Normal

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Ave Maria University: Normal?

Every year or so somebody writes a summary about how the Ave Maria project – town and university – is progressing. While the most recent such article appearing in Gulfshore Life seems to start with that broad aim by recapping some history, it ends up focusing only on Ave Maria University. If you don’t have time to read it yourself, here are some highlights along with article quotations from each of the people shown in the photos:

Jim Towey likes four words to appear in the same sentence: “normal” and “Ave Maria University.”

The most popular spot in
 the community is the Queen Mary pub, located in the town square. Students meet up with each other—and their professors—on weekend nights, cultivating a family-like community difficult to find at larger schools.

Faith teachings are woven into policies and practices: single-sex dorms, lights-on requirements in common rooms (students call them “chastity lights”), daily Mass (encouraged for Catholics, but not required), rules about bathing attire (often broken), lots of theology classes, nightly “Rosary Walks” in which students stroll the campus reciting prayers. Professors don’t limit lectures to Catholic worldviews, students say, but religious references might pop up at any time, like they did in a Shakespeare class one afternoon during which students (un- prompted) drew comparisons between the bard and the Bible.

The retention rate is now about 84 percent, he says… A recruitment effort has pushed enrollment up steadily for the past three years. Towey has cut tuition, emphasized marketing and hopes to eventually grow to 4,000. The university has drawn students from 48 states and 18 countries, a feat considering its youth, its recent accreditation (earned just three years ago)—and its share of unfavorable press.


AMU Chancellor Monaghan: “By (building) a university, I could bring in people from all over the country and all over the world, and then they could go back to their communities and make a real difference.”

Bishop Dewane at the Ave Maria Oratory

Bishop Dewane: “Tom Monaghan should be commended for his forthright commitment to Catholic education and his Catholic faith. His leadership and vision brought the monumental undertaking of building a Catholic university to Southwest Florida to where it stands today.”

Shawn Summe

AMU Athletic Director Shawn Summe: “It’s just a great environment to be
 in every day… You’ve heard all the rumors and everything about it, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.”


AMU junior Mitch Marcello: “That’s one of the things I really like about Ave. You have the Catholic faith in its fullness, but it’s not separated from reality.”

Chris Hahn

AMU student Chris Hahn: “There are a lot of Catholic colleges around the country, but this is one of the few colleges that is not ashamed of its Catholic beliefs and letting everybody know.”

Jorge Thomas

AMU sophomore basketball player Jorge Thomas: “They don’t force it on you… I’m Protestant, but we all believe in the same god. They’re not trying to lure you into their religion.”


AMU President Towey: “We want to build a thoroughfare of service to Immokalee so you don’t graduate from here unless you have spent some time in Immokalee. Mother Teresa really teaches us to put our faith into action.”


AMU Professor Travis Curtright: “Ave Maria is a place where you are free to dream, and the best aspect is seeing a lot of those dreams come true.”

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