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“AVE MARIA STOOPS TO NEW LOW”  by Founder of Catholic Media Coalition


Drum Roll…

Thomas S. Monaghan… Just Chancellor

On February 17, 2009 I publicly asked Tom Monaghan, Nick Healy and company– to step down from their positions at Ave Maria University– in a commentary published in the editorial pages of the Naples Daily News.  Monaghan supporters began a campaign of vilification and vicious ad hominem attacks against me, which has continued to this day, as a result of my commentary.

In spite of these personal attacks I continued to question the administration of Ave Maria University, as well as the Ave Maria “Special District” town government– which practices taxation without representation, as a Sustainable Development  (Agenda 21) local government, approved for Mr. Monaghan and Barron Collier, by the Florida Legislature. The supporters of the Monaghan-Barron Collier Companies real estate development team brought a second wave of personal attacks against me– which have also persisted to this day.

Well, it took almost two years.  Ave Maria University announced yesterday that Thomas S. Monaghan is stepping down as CEO, but retaining his position as chancellor.  This is a bit of a joke, since Monaghan IS Ave Maria University– so, whoever becomes CEO still has to turn to Monaghan as the main benefactor with the big bucks.  Sounds more like a game of switching hats.

AMU also announced that Nick Healy was stepping down as president.  This may have been  inspired by yesterday’s  announcement that Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak may finally end his despotic 30-year dictatorship.   Monaghan, Mubarak and Healy can now look to one another for support.

Does this mean that Monaghan’s idiosyncratic regime may be crumbling?

What is evident is that Monaghan’s  one-man show as chancellor, CEO and chief financial backer of his controversial university may be coming to an end.

But, it looks like a simple drum roll is all we get for now.   No loud trumpet calls here– since the old guard is still around, standing close to Monaghan.  Unless Jim Towey, the new president of Ave Maria University, begins a quiet purge; HOWEVER, I do not see Mr. Towey as a messianic figure– since we don’t know if he could make the situation worse– if that’s even possible.  Why?  Well, let’s not forget that Mr. Towey wouldn’t be here without Monaghan’s approval.  That alone, is cause for concern.  We’ll be watching.

Announcing the Announcement: How to Keep the Faculty in the Dark

Nick Healy, Former President of Ave Maria University (Finally leaving!)

Ave Maria University made the announcement to the public yesterday morning.   The Naples Daily News printed the announcement at 10:53am via a press release from AMU’s public relations department.  The spokesperson for the university was Michael T.O. Timmis, Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

The faculty received an e-mail on Wednesday afternoon announcing that there would be an announcement the next morning during a conference.  Comical suspense…  What could be going on?

One can almost hear doors slamming in the dark.

Then, on Thursday morning the faculty received another e-mail shortly before the conference, letting them know about the big news.

How considerate!

Now, from a legal stand point and as a private university, AMU may not have to report the process of a major decision like the hiring of a new president; however, from a moral stand point,  the faculty should have been notified from the beginning– and made part of a decision-making process that affects their future, and that of the university.  After all, the university does not exist without its faculty.  Keeping the faculty in the dark is not how universities normally operate.

Having said that, it’s good to see Nick finally go!

Jim Towey, New President of Ave Maria University

The Naples Daily News press release also indicated that Jim Towey, whose full name is H. James Towey, will assume the role of president at AMU, as of July 1, 2011.

As president, it is to be expected that Mr. Towey will also take over the role of CEO, although the press release from AMU’s public relations department (again, published by the Naples Daily News at 10:53am) said that Monaghan was stepping down as CEO, but it did not specifically identify Towey as the new CEO.  Towey was only identified as the new president.

This is interesting, considering that AMU is well-known for carefully wording their press releases.   Until this is defined, Mr. Towey’s position as president would be limited in scope.  Remember, up to now Monaghan has been chancellor and CEO.

The timing of this announcement by the AMU Board of Trustees, closer to the beginning of a semester, is bizarre– to put it mildly.

Could it be that Barron Collier Companies, Monaghan’s real estate partner, is exerting pressure on Ave Maria University, regarding financial stability?  After all, the Monaghan-Barron Collier Companies real estate partnership involved the selling of homes in a “university-town”.

The Role of a CEO… and Public Perception

A Chief Executive Officer is supposed to act as the leader who guides the institution in a profitable direction.  The CEO sets the tone and manages the culture within the organization.

Monaghan will no longer be in that role.  At least that will be the public perception– which is something that AMU greatly cares about, based on how they respond to media inquiries through their Marketing Department, when asked to clarify issues involving scandals, and other moral and delicate matters.

And, if the famous “Levering Memo” is any indication– the question of whether AMU has been guided in a “profitable direction” has been a concern for some time.

While Monaghan claims that this change in leadership will give him more time to promote the university, as of yesterday he is effectively turning himself into a figurehead.  Lest we forget the ongoing issue about perceptions.

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Good bye, Nick… Your Departure is “Our Gift of God”!

Yes! Finally! Ave Maria University will have a new president.  This means that Nick Healy (whose full name is Nicholas J. Healy, Jr.) will soon be gone.  Hard to believe!

Healy will leave us with memories of his famous public embrace of the Ave Maria-Jackson Lab project– a “deal” which has joined the ranks of the infamous taxpayer and political scandals, so common in Florida’s history.

The Ave Maria-Jackson Lab project was also initially considered a “gift of God” and “an answer to prayer” by Healy’s  close friend and colleague, Dr. Michael Waldstein– a professor of theology at Ave Maria University.  This eye opening public statement by Dr. Waldstein took place during a town hall meeting at Ave Maria on December 14, 2010– many months after the local bishop had publicly expressed his concerns about the Jackson Lab’s move to Ave Maria– and after many months of media coverage of the scandal.   This is  “out-of-touch” on a whole different level.

For those not familiar with the Jackson Lab– the embarrassing and painful nightmare of the Jackson Lab “deal” involved a proposal to bring the controversial genetics lab to Ave Maria, by way of millions of taxpayer dollars.  The project was seen by many as a corporate  bail out of the Monaghan-Barron Collier Companies real estate experiment in Ave Maria.

Adding insult to injury, the Jackson Lab is also involved in holding workshops and providing resources for Human Embryonic Stem Cell (HESC) Research.  The Roman Catholic Church considers HESC research a grave crime against innocent human life.  And yes– Thomas S. Monaghan made the land available for the Jackson Lab’s  location in Ave Maria, and gave the famous “Go ahead with it” –after doing his “due diligence”.

Fortunately, the Jackson Lab deal was driven out of town– after tremendous public opposition from Collier County citizens, mostly from Naples, as well as media coverage by investigative journalist Randy Engel, and this writer.  While the Jackson Lab battle raged in Naples, back in Ave Maria the crickets were chirping.

What is remarkable is that this conflicting hodgepodge of religion and real estate monetary ambitions has been taking place in Monaghan’s well-advertised “Catholic town” and “city of God.”

Mr. Healy will also leave us with the incredible memory of his enthusiastic support of the Home of the Mother  (Hogar de la Madre)– a religious group which was expelled from Ave Maria University in August 2010, after the local bishop met with AMU officials to discuss the former Superior’s  involvement in a lesbian relationship with an Ave Maria University student.

The Home of the Mother group of priests and religious sisters, which stayed at the university, was  enthusiastically endorsed under Healy’s administration — and was even assigned the role of  providing vocational discernment for women and men at Ave Maria University! One can’t help but wonder how parents felt– particularly those who sent their children to Ave Maria University, encouraged in part by such on-campus sexual abstinence  groups like the “Chastity Club”.

Home of the Mother came to AMU as a “private association of the faithful” under Healy’s administration– NOT as a religious order with the canonical standing of a group such as the Dominicans.   The Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida had no involvement in bringing Home of the Mother to Ave Maria.

The Home of the Mother also became very active and militant in the Town of Ave Maria– while holding prayer meetings and offering retreats for children at their Jacksonville facilities.  Unfortunately, many residents in the Town of Ave Maria still see this Home of the Mother group as a legitimate and good Catholic influence on their children– in spite of the Bishop’s position, and in spite of the fact that the entire group was expelled from Ave Maria University.

But Dr. Waldstein was seriously mistaken when he referred to the Jackson Lab as “a gift of God”.    Our true “gift of God” is Nick’s departure.

Who is the new president of Ave Maria University?

Jim Towey is a lawyer  (“an attorney”) who does not come from the world of academia– just like his predecessor, Nick Healy.  Towey served as President of St. Vincent College in Pennsylvania, for approximately only three years.  He announced his resignation from St. Vincent in October 2009.   Read more at: (Also available in PDF here).

As a Democrat, Towey also served as director of the Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives under President George W. Bush.

Since the process that led to Towey’s selection as president was kept a secret until yesterday, no one really knows what to expect, other than what AMU’s administration is saying.  It appears that Mr. Towey’s name was Googled quite a few times yesterday.

This new announcement is, nevertheless,  a huge change in Monaghan’s higher education  experiment, after spending most of his life selling pizza.  This becomes even more remarkable when considering the amount of money he has invested in the Ave Maria University project– and the power he has held over his Ave Maria brand of academia– ranging from his dismantled law school and college in Michigan, to this university, in the swamplands of rural Eastern Collier County.  It is also NOT a surprising turn of events.

Some, particularly those beholden to Monaghan, see him as a reigning figure in American Catholic philanthropy.  Others see him as the reigning figure in a regime of control– which has included law suits, the firing of dissenters, and the resignation of others, like Dr. Matthew Levering,  who would not go along with Monaghan’s program.

These law suits, firings and resignations have brought into question the institutional stability of Monaghan’s Ave Maria educational brand.  Issues involving social justice are also a concern — such as the severe 2nd mortgage agreement that some faculty members entered into with the university, during the purchase of their homes:

Jury Trial Waiver. The Borrow­er hereby waives any right to a trial by jury in any action, pro­ceeding, claim, or counterclaim, whether in contract or tort, at law or in equity, arising out of or in any way related to this Security Instrument or the Note. Definition of Maturity Date. The Maturity Date of this Note shall be the first to occur of the following events; when the Property is sold or trans­ferred, upon any acceleration of the Note or first mortgage on the Property for default or otherwise, upon obtaining any subordinate mortgage financing on the Prop­erty, within ninety (90) days of the date when a Borrower leaves the full time employment of Ave Mar­ia University, Inc. unless the Bor­rower is totally and permanently disabled according to the Ave Maria University disability poli­cy, not later than three ( 3) years of any Borrower’s death or retire­ment from the University such pe­riod being determined based upon Borrower’s years of service to Ave Maria University, when the Prop­erty is no longer used by Borrow­er as Borrower’s primary resi­dence.

These issues affecting the university are of great importance– not just to students and their parents, but to those who purchased properties in the Town of Ave Maria, based on the promotion of the university-town concept.

Ave Maria University’s corporate structure

Ave Maria University is a private educational corporation in the state of Florida.  In corporate environments there are lines that clearly define the boundaries between senior management, staff and advisory boards.  But are these lines clearly defined at Ave Maria University?

Case in point:  The Ave Maria “University Council” (commonly referred to as the “UC”) is a group comprised of upper management and staff, which meets to discuss issues of importance to the university.  This intriguing group exists in addition to the Board of Trustees.  Why?  What authority does it have?  What is exactly its role?  What purpose does it serve?

Will the new president continue the UC meetings?  Better yet– will the Board of Trustees allow the UC meetings to continue?

Welcome to Ave Maria, Mr. Towey– where the university and the town are joined at the hip

Ave Maria University and the town have been joined at the hip from inception– in a never-ending incestuous business relationship, through overlapping administrative boards (such as when an official from Ave Maria University also acts as an official in the town’s governing board). Read about it here:  The Chronicles of Ave Maria: One Year Later

This incestuous business relationship became very evident on November 5, 2009, when– in front of my husband and children, AMU’s administration threatened to have me arrested, in order to keep me out of a press conference I was formally registered to attend as a journalist.


AMU’s shocking explanation to the media was that their action against me was based on questions I had asked, as a resident, two days before– regarding compliance of government statutes at an Ave Maria town government meeting.  AMU’s administration considered my questions  to be “disruptive”! Paul Roney, who is a member of the town’s governing board, as well as Chief Financial Officer at AMU, admitted that he “reported” me to the university as “disruptive”.

Disruptive?  For asking questions, as a resident taxpayer, about compliance of government statutes?

My husband and I had attended the town government meeting as property owners.

This town government meeting had absolutely nothing to do with my presence as a journalist at the university press conference.

As if this draconian approach wasn’t enough– AMU’s administration proceeded to ban me from over 1,000 acres of their property for nearly three months.

The AMU administration finally lifted the ban shortly before Cardinal Francis George’s visit to the AMU campus,  on February 2, 2010.

This is how Nick Healy worded the lifting of the ban:

Dear Mrs. Montesino de Stuart:

After discussion with our senior leadership, in view of the fact that there are events on campus this spring which you might wish to attend, in charity we are giving you permission, effective immediately, to come on the campus in the same manner as any other resident.– Nick Healy, January, 28, 2010

The hubris behind the statement for the lifting of my ban is noteworthy.

Imagine what it would have been like having Cardinal George, who was the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, visit a university “in the Catholic tradition” that has threatened with arrest and banned a town resident, for exercising her First Amendment rights, at a town government meeting!

So much for the benefits of  living in a university-town!

This chilling of speech and control of freedom of movement is only seen in communist and totalitarian regimes– much like we see in Mubarak’s Egypt.

The public did not know on November 5, 2009 that the press conference was being held for the purpose of honoring a controversial billionaire/politician from New York, for his gift of $4 million to the university.  My scrutiny as a Catholic journalist was not something that AMU was willing to face.  The following article explains it best: Timelines and Facts…

Three months later, on February 2010 this ‘joined-at-the-hip’ relationship became even more evident, when AMU lawyers threatened a Catholic newspaper which published an article by this writer, about  amended town covenants which appear to be unconstitutional.   My article was followed, in the same newspaper, by a commentary from a conservative constitutional scholar, who also seriously questioned the constitutionality of said amended covenants.

The question is:  Why are lawyers for a private educational institution such as AMU threatening a newspaper for exposing town covenants that affect the public?

The lawyers also argued that Ave Maria University had not misrepresented itself by claiming to be the first new “Catholic university” to be formed in the last four decades!


To this day, Ave Maria University remains unrecognized as a Catholic university by the Bishop of the Diocese of Venice.   Within hours of the announced changes at AMU on February 10, the Naples Daily News was reminding the public that Ave Maria University “is still seeking the official designation of a “Catholic Institution” that can only be bestowed by the Catholic Church.

$inging the $ame $ong…

The fact that AMU cannot even call itself a “Catholic university” on its own website, has not kept $ome of Monaghan’s fervent $upporters from calling it as such.  $o, the revolving door of monotonous  promotional pieces continue (they all $ound like the $ame person is writing them)– while AMU’s administration proudly displays them on their website.

This lead$ one to wonder, more and more, if The Newman Guide ha$ any value.

It appears that $ome of Monaghan’s $upporters $uffer from the $ame distre$$– they only know how to $ing one $ong…

Mary Ann Kreitzer, founder of the Catholic Media Coalition and prominent pro-life leader had this to say about Monaghan and his lawyers:

“Tom Monaghan has plenty of money to engage in a frivolous lawsuit which the [Catholic news]paper can ill afford and he has shown himself perfectly willing in the past to go after those who disagree with him (Remember the professors at the law school in Ann Arbor?)”  — May 6, 2010

Then, as if the two media incidents named above were not enough, in May 2010, Barron Collier Companies threatened PBS over a documentary which portrayed Ave Maria as a “spiritual community”.  I was the only person in the Town of Ave Maria who was willing to go on camera for this documentary, where I explained the confusing public identity of the town, based on conflicting religious and secular promotions of Ave Maria– both as a “Catholic hub” and as a town for “Every Lifestyle…”.   [VIDEO CLIP]:

What can we expect from the new president of Ave Maria University?

Will Jim Towey, as the new president of Ave Maria University, instruct the AMU lawyers to threaten the media, just like the previous administration did?

As a lawyer, will Jim Towey use a heavy-handed litigious approach when faced with opposing views or criticism?

Will Ave Maria University one day become officially a “Catholic university”– or will it remain a private educational corporation? [see update below].

What will Jim Towey change?

Will Jim Towey replace Nick Healy’s underlings?  Or,  as I said above– could he make the situation even worse?

Can Jim Towey make changes — with Monaghan and the old guard looking over his shoulder?

Does Jim Towey want to change anything… or does Jim Towey just need a job?

There is no reason to doubt that the new president of Ave Maria University comes with very good intentions; however, he will have to maneuver through the murky waters of an environment of control, in a remote rural location.  On the other hand, we don’t know if Mr. Towey will fit right in with this environment.

But, even more difficult to face is the apprehension that scandals leave behind.

No doubt, Mr.Towey’s  plate is full.    After all, Monaghan is still around.


REFERENCE: September 2007

Someone has to say the truth…

♦   ♦   ♦

Marielena Montesino de Stuart

You may also read Marielena Montesino de Stuart’s commentaries through: RenewAmerica, USAToday, The Dallas Morning News, U.S. Politics Today (an EIN Service for Political Professionals-*) Poynter Online, Spero News, Daily Estimate, The New Liturgical Movement-Poland, The Naples Daily News, Les Femmes-The Truth, Culture War Notes,  ProLife Blogs,  etc.

Copyright © Marielena Montesino de Stuart. All Rights Reserved


TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION:  H. James Towey, New President of Ave Maria University * Nick Healy steps down as President of Ave Maria University * Tom Monaghan, Thomas S. Monaghan * Why can’t Ave Maria University call itself a “Catholic university” on its own website? * The Town of Ave Maria is not in Naples, Florida * Collier County * Ave Maria, Florida and Sustainable Development (Agenda 21).

Notice to readers

UPDATE:  Bishop Frank Dewane finally made the decision to give Catholic recognition to Ave Maria University in October, 2011– in spite of the fact that there is a building on the Ave Maria University campus named in honor of a billionaire/politician who has given millions of dollars to pro-abortion politicians, including Barack Obama.  This decision by Bishop Dewane is consistent with Cardinal William Levada’s modernist approach to Catholicism, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

So many  questions remain:  Is this all about perception?  What value is there left in “Catholic” institutional recognition, under the present modernist hierarchy of the Church?  Personally, I do not see any.

Link to Jim Towey’s “an attorney” [quote from website]: