THE CASE FOR AVE MARIA UNIVERSITY
A Response to Andrew Messaros

October 2004By Nicholas J. Healy, Jr.

Nicholas J. Healy, Jr. is President of Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida.

As scientists — and historians — know, a small error at the outset can lead to major distortions over time. In his article in the September NOR, Dr. Andrew Messaros has fundamentally misunderstood the plan for the relocation of Ave Maria College of Florida, and thus his faulty inferences and errors in judgment have been compounded.

The plan took shape in the spring, summer, and fall of 2002, long before Messaros arrived on campus. (He was in Michigan for a single academic year, August 2003-July 2004.) It began after it had become clear that it was highly unlikely that the Domino’s Farms property, which Tom Monaghan intended to donate to the College (so that it could grow into a university), would receive the required zoning change. This led Monaghan to consider acquiring — and donating — other sites both within and without the State of Michigan. Southwest Florida became an early favorite. Intense consultations were held with senior officers of the College, with key Board members, with the Bishop of Venice, Fla., and with the Commissioners of Collier County. All of these strongly encouraged the concept of a new university campus in the vicinity of Naples, Fla.

By the time of the spring Board of Trustees meeting (April 2002), several properties in or near Naples had been identified, and the idea of a relocation of the College to Florida was formally presented. Discussion was lively, but the Board signaled general approval of a plan that promised considerably augmented resources being made available to the College upon relocation. As President of Ave Maria College (AMC) in Michigan since 1999, I was asked to relocate to Florida to prepare the ground for the relocation. Dr. Michael Healy (no relation) was elected interim AMC President. Further approval of the concept was given at the August 2002 meeting of the AMC Board of Trustees.

It quickly became obvious that for State licensing and accreditation purposes a separate legal entity had to be established in Florida; hence, Ave Maria University (AMU) was formed. This was not intended to remain independent of AMC. Rather, AMU was to be the “host” entity as AMC transitioned to Florida over a period of a few years. To facilitate close, ongoing collaboration there were many common Board members, a joint transition team established, and joint planning meetings held.

The general plan was then presented to the AMC Board at its regular meeting November 19, 2002. Michael Healy moved the following resolution, which was unanimously adopted:


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