Skip to comments.Tom Monaghan pledges to close Ave Maria College
Posted on 06/26/2004 3:08:19 PM PDT by Land of the Irish
ANN ARBOR, Mich. Only a week after the Board of Trustees of Ave Maria College reaffirmed its commitment to continue the Michigan college through 2007, and to explore options to keep the school functioning after that, Thomas Monaghan announced that he wants the school shut down in 2007.
His decision is detailed in a June 11 letter to the three trustees who comprise a special committee charged with exploring the viability of proposals for the continuation of AMC.
"It is my judgment that the available resources should be utilized for an orderly and effective completion of the teach out of the currently enrolled students, and for the campus in Ypsilanti to close as planned by June of 2007," Monaghan wrote.
Monaghan explained in a brief four-paragraph letter that a movement on the part of Ave Maria College faculty and staff to explore transforming AMC into an independent Newman College "would require significant grants from the [Ave Maria] Foundation," and that the proposal "lack[s] a viable plan."
In a companion letter, written to all the Board members of AMC and dated June 15, Monaghan claimed that without financial support from Ave Maria Foundation, which is controlled by him, there is no proposal that is viable for continuing AMC. "Based on past resolutions of the Ave Maria College Board, an administrative plan is being prepared to gradually reduce enrollment, faculty, and staff, without impairing the commitment to teach students currently enrolled through the 2006-2007 academic year."
Monaghans statement strongly implies that he unilaterally controls the AMC Board, since the Dominos Pizza founder is the primary benefactor. Since most of the Board members are either his own employees or his personal friends, Monaghans controlling interest has hitherto gone unquestioned.
This element of control has applied not only to Board members, but to the college as a whole. Since he founded the college, for example, Monaghan has treated AMC as his personal company by insisting on daily written reports from the president, and has made all the significant decisions affecting it.
At the June 8 meeting, however, the Board voted to continue AMC as it is until 2007, and to explore keeping it open. This vote represented a dramatic turnabout for Monaghan, since several Board members openly and successfully beat back Monaghans effort to rapidly transfer all of AMCs assets to Florida, and to shut it down in 2007.
After that June 8 meeting, AMC faculty and staff believed that they had the go-ahead to round up funding over the next three years to become independent of Monaghans largesse, which began with a pledge of "a minimum of $25 million" made in 2002 for the assurance of accreditation.
AMC President Ronald Muller sent a letter to all Ave Maria College Michigan students, staff, and faculty on June 8, affirming the plans to develop long-term funding, so as not to interfere with Monaghans plans to divert all of his remaining resources to Florida.
The June 8 Boards meeting and vote came amidst a growing controversy that Monaghan was about to abandon the institution and shift its assets to Ave Maria University in Florida. The vote also represented a decisive blow to AMU Floridas president, Nicholas J. Healy, who also sits on the AMC Michigan Board of Trustees. In a series of disturbing memos sent to AMC Michigan students, staff, and faculty, Healy repeatedly spoke of an expedited plan to "transfer of assets" from the AMC Michigan school to the AMU Florida school long before 2007 a plan which students feared would threaten the Michigan schools accreditation, as well as its ability to keep its promise to graduate the class of 2007.
Likewise, many others in the AMC Michigan community saw the Healy plan as handwriting on the wall threatening the school with early closure, academic chaos, and uncertainty for its over 200 students, and the fear of massive and immediate job losses for 15-20 faculty and staff.
The move to derail Healys plan was led by AMC Michigan Board members Federal District Court Judge James Ryan and Detroit radio station owner John J. Kruse.
AMC Michigan was originally founded in 1998, and quickly achieved respect within orthodox Catholic circles, attracting such popular Catholic intellectuals as Dr. Janet Smith and biographer Joseph Pearce. As a result of zoning difficulties in the Ann Arbor Township, however, Monaghans dream of building a Catholic university in Michigan to rival Notre Dame was redirected to Florida. In the process of this sea-change, however, it became apparent that Monaghan wanted his mega-university built sooner rather than later.
Since Monaghan announced the founding of Ave Maria University in southern Florida in November 2002, Ave Maria College Michigan faculty, staff, students, and their parents have been suspended in a constant state of insecurity and turmoil, unsure of the status of their hiring contracts, accreditation, and the effects of administrative chaos as AMU Florida President Healy, a former New York maritime lawyer, devises and implements new administrative schemes every few months in his attempt to build the Florida university while "winding down" the Michigan college.
As a result of Healys administrative actions at the Florida campus, AMC is in the midst of a U.S. Department of Education investigation into the handling of federal tuition grants and loans, for students who attended the Florida campus, and the school could be facing orders to return hundreds of thousands of dollars to the government for student loans and grants made to those attending the Naples campus, according to several Michigan sources.
Healys questionable management along with a growing PR crisis for Monaghans Florida start-up university may only be one of the reasons why AMC Board members Judge Ryan and John Kruse have put the brakes on any plan to "wind down" AMC Michigan.
The chaos between the college and the university is only one aspect of turmoil in Monaghans Ave Maria Foundation empire, which established the Spiritus Sanctus elementary schools, founded by Mother Assumpta Long (who broke with Monaghan last year), the Thomas More Law Center, and the Institute for Pastoral Theology, and includes a number of abandoned projects, such as the Credo newspaper, Ave Maria Radio, and St. Marys College in Orchard Park.
Thus far, the chaos has not spread to the Ave Maria Law School, which is run by nationally acclaimed and thoroughly professional Bernard Dobranski, who has implemented a flawless program to make his school a model of excellence.
When Dobranski was asked to head Ave Maria Law School, he achieved independence through a Board that includes high-profile legal figures such as Notre Dames Charles Rice and Gerard Bradley and Princetons Robert George.
And the Ave Maria Catholic Values Fund [Ticker: AVEMX], which does not invest in businesses that cater to the "culture of death," has outperformed the Standard & Poors 500 Index, generating annualized returns of 10.4% for the three-year period ending May 31, in contrast to annualized losses of 2.1% for the S&P 500.
The situation at Ave Maria College took a dramatic turn in mid-May when it was learned that Healy and Monaghan were negotiating to pay nearby Madonna University to take over the administration of the AMC campus before July 1, as Healy boasted to an AMC official that Madonna would then be able to lay off or fire AMC staff and faculty.
At the same time, negotiations had been well underway for more than five months of a proposal by Michigan faculty and staff to create a successor institution, tentatively dubbed "Newman College," to keep the Michigan campus alive. The AMC Board on April 27 was expected to either approve the Newman proposal or to approve a so-called merger of the Michigan and Florida properties. Instead, they postponed the decision and appointed three members of the AMC Board to a committee to research the viability of the Newman proposal, which would become the successor institution to AMC in Michigan.
"When all the evidence was in, the AMC Board discovered that it cannot merge the assets of the Michigan and Florida institutions because of accreditation problems, which would immediately affect federal tuition and loan programs," a Michigan source told The Wanderer.
"AMC faculty and staff considered the Madonna proposal a clear indication that certain members of the AMC Board of Trustees were double-dealing with us, and they lost a great deal of credibility. The mere fact it was secret tells us all we, and the public, need to know."
The Madonna scenario was "déjà vu" for Healy, who only a year earlier secretly negotiated, then sold, Monaghan-owned St. Marys College of Orchard Lake to Madonna, derailing the careers of several professors personally brought to the campus by Healy, and ruining a Catholic studies program that was doing well in a rebuilding phase.
Well-known Catholic journalist Michael S. Rose first publicized the chaotic situation at Ave Maria College on this web site, and a loose coalition of parents, calling themselves "Ave Parents," created a web site, www.geocities.com/aveparents challenging statements of the AMC/AMU leadership in rebuttals to their memos (many of which were penned by Healy) and letters about the situation.
As a result, there has been a fire-storm of controversy about the proposal and the AMC Board of Trustees has been bombarded with complaints. This includes an open threat to sue from Dr. Ed Peters, both a civil and a canon lawyer and a professor in Ave Marias Institute for Pastoral Theology, whose son is a senior at AMC Michigan.
"If my son is not allowed to graduate from Ave Maria College, with a degree from Ave Maria College, based on courses taken at a functional Ave Maria College, we will sue. Period," Dr. Peters wrote in a public statement.
A few days later, Peters then issued a three-page open letter to the AMC/AMU administrations, laying out his position. His web site can be reached at www.canonlaw.info.
Before its June 8 meeting, when the trustees nixed the Madonna proposal and issued a statement saying they would consult with faculty and staff on the prospects of keeping AMC open past 2007, Healy was determined to "accelerate the transition" of AMC Michigan to AMU Florida.
The problem, which has created the crisis, was that one college had now become two institutions. The so-called transition was in reality the start-up of a new university in Florida at the expense of an already-existing college in Michigan with ongoing interests.
Healys primary goal, according to copies of memos and sources at both the Florida and Michigan campuses, has been to move all of AMCs money into the coffers of AMU. AMC Michigan reportedly holds over $23 million in assets including buildings, a $5 million note from the Orchard Lake schools, and a $1 million library.
Healys desire to claim these assets for the Florida venture is not hard to understand. The new university has a price tag of more than $1 billion, is costing more than anticipated, and Healy has announced major donations so far that total only $12 million, which comes to less than $1 one million a month since the announcement of the daring venture, located just north of the Florida Everglades.
Despite the promise to keep the Michigan campus open through 2007, there has been a major effort to decimate it by drawing more than 50 students and faculty to Florida. Michigan students have been aggressively courted to move to Florida many have been given summer jobs there, for example.
As a result, tensions between the two campuses have noticeably increased.
"Healy has been running into disaster after disaster, all self-created," said one Ave Maria source who declined to be identified. "When he created the university and applied for accreditation through the Southern Association of Schools (SACS), he did not anticipate the stringent regulations that forbid mingling of resources between Michigan and Florida operations, such as library and computer databases.
"His efforts to get around these regulations have created a mind-boggling web of other problems.
"For some reason, rather than merely attend to building the Naples project, they are fixated on destroying the Michigan campus, which is accredited and highly acclaimed for its solid academics and orthodoxy," the source added.
Keep The College
Faculty, staff, and students insist that, even while Monaghan reaffirmed his commitment to keep Ave Maria College open until 2007, there is no need to abandon the Ypsilanti campus.
As Keith and Therese Bower pointed out in a letter to parents when they launched their Ave Parents web site, faculty, staff, students, and their parents entered into a partnership with Monaghan to create a vital Catholic academic institution, and helped "in making the school the stellar success it has become.
"Our reasons for coming together as parents are simply to voice a number of questions and concerns over the current plan to move all of Mr. Monaghans assets to Ave Maria University, Florida, to the needless detriment of the Michigan college, which may directly harm the educational careers of our sons and daughters."
While praising Monaghan for his generosity, the Bowers observe that for many Catholics in the Midwest and Canada, sending children to Florida for college is not practical, and removing "assets" from the college to the university in Florida represents the betrayal of a pledge he made, not just to parents, students, and faculty, but also to the national accreditation board.
"While the majority of Ave Maria Colleges funding remains intact at present, significant asset transfer has already started to occur in various forms," the Bowers wrote. "This taking back of gifts to Ave Maria College has done much to destroy the morale of the AMC Michigan students, pointlessly forcing some of them to look elsewhere for a good Catholic education.
"As Catholic parents, we feel that this taking back of gifts already given to AMC Michigan constitutes a serious injustice to our children, as well as to the broader AMC community."
In early June, in response to a statement from Ave Maria Universitys Chancellor Fr. Fessio and President Healy, which defended the transfer of assets from the college to the university, the Ave Parents responded:
"This is not a transition of AMC to Florida, it is the start of a new university and the closure of Ave Maria College. This is the heart of the problem it involves the firing of up to two or three dozen employees at AMC who cannot, will not, or are not being allowed to transition to Florida. Moreover, AMC has [Monaghans] promise to provide it with a minimum $25 million, it has a library worth approximately $1 million, it owns land worth approximately $4.5 million, it has name recognition, and other valuable assets."
And contrary to assertions made by Fessio and Healy that AMCs mission would continue in Florida, the Ave Parents responded: "It was understood by the founding professors and staffers that the college would operate in Michigan forever, as part of the effort to evangelize the Ann Arbor and the Great Lakes regions. Until about 2001, there was never even the remotest notion of closing it six years later and opening a new university in Florida that would eventually boast the nations largest football stadium, equestrian programs, the largest glass church in the U.S., with the worlds largest crucifix, or a series of avant-garde buildings with the most expensive copper roofing in the world.
"Clearly the Florida enterprise is a total abandonment of, or at least a drastic revision of, the ORIGINAL plan. This is a plan [Mr. Monaghan] had promised or donated over $25 million toward. Faculty, staff, and students had relied on that promise. We merely ask that those promises be kept."
A Sad Legacy
Monaghan and Healy both claim the Ave Maria Foundation decision to relocate to Florida was due to the city of Ann Arbors refusing to allow Monaghan to build the college on his property.
But several people The Wanderer spoke to wondered why Monaghan simply didnt keep the campus of St. Marys of Orchard Lake, which he purchased in 2000 for Ave Maria College and University, rather than sell it to Madonna University.
After Michael Rose reported three weeks ago on the turmoil at Ave Maria College for his cruxnews.com web site, several readers responded, claiming that Monaghan was developing a pattern of broken promises.
"What administrators are in the process of doing with their Ypsilanti campus, they did a year ago behind closed doors to us at the St. Marys campus," wrote Dr. Kelly Bowring, who taught theology at St. Marys.
"No one would believe us last year when it happened to us. We just wanted to be part of the Ave Maria family, and believed them when they initiated the invitation to become so. But, after calling our sister campus their stepchild and treating us as such for over two years, the Ave Maria senior administrators decided to go on to Florida without us.
"They used us to gain accreditation, became upset (as I witnessed myself) when we started to succeed, and then abandoned us, making sure we could no longer pose a threat of competition. St. Marys College of Ave Maria University was forced to close last May, with only four months notice, as the chairman of the Board, Tom Monaghan, resigned and left with his money and our computers (not to mention his other Michigan entities that have been left in the dust to fend for themselves, including the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist and their elementary schools, Credo newspaper, and Ave Maria Radio).
"With the closing of St. Marys, 550 students and dozens of faculty and staff were caught in the riptide as Ave Maria moved ahead to bigger and better things, to its own glory and the praise of many. . . .
"Despite the noticeable lack of support from Ave Maria during our three-year period as St. Marys College of AMU, our theology program grew from two students studying theology to over 50 students majoring and minoring in the revised sacred theology program (which included a new national catechetical institute), with students coming from several states and other countries. It was quite a blessed endeavor. But, as of May last year, almost all of them were left behind without finishing their studies with Ave Maria.
"On a personal note, I was hired by Ave Maria President Nick Healy four years ago to be associate professor of sacred theology for Ave Maria at their new St. Marys campus, and promised by him directly that I would be taken care of by Ave Maria should things not work out with St. Marys. But he did not keep his promises, even despite having been asked several times for help (for both St. Marys and for myself)."
One year ago, in May 2003, nationally renowned theologian Dr. Janet Smith wrote a long letter to Monaghan outlining problems she saw with Healys management, to no avail. She eventually found herself marginalized by Healy, then left for full-time employment as a philosophy professor at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, although she lives near AMC.
In her letter, which is available from the Ave Parents web site at www.geo cities.com/aveparents/JanetSmithLetter.html, details a long array of problems affecting AMC/AMU and concludes her note with this warning:
"The leadership in Florida seems happy to bask in the positive response of a whole new set of people to whom they are making big promises and not to want to hear anything from those who are seeing a distressing pattern of lack of regard for promises previously made, for the well-being of current faculty and their families, and for the present students.
"Certainly the leadership has the best of intentions they are trying to do what is right for all involved, but they are wrong not to consult and inform those who have made sacrifices for the college. The leadership simply has to come to terms with the fact that a significant and influential part of the conservative Catholic community is becoming distrustful of the leadership of AMU."
While no one The Wanderer spoke with denies Tom Monaghan the right to do with his financial assets whatever he wants, a number of other objections to the Florida move were raised:
To start a university from scratch in the middle of a vast vegetable and fruit plantation is, probably, unprecedented, since, historically, universities have started small, and grown organically, and almost always in towns or cities.
There is also a lot of personal "hurt" in the Ann Arbor area, where Monaghan has been the hub around which large numbers of Catholics, most of whom have no connection to Ave Maria College, have rotated. Breaking up Ave Maria College will dramatically impact a thriving, close-knit Catholic community and disrupt families and extended families.
Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan, and nearby Detroit, with its numerous colleges and universities, provides a large number of intellectual assets not limited to libraries, faculties, etc. that can stimulate the intellectual life of Ave Maria College faculty, staff, and students, much more than the desert and swamps of southern Florida could.
Paul Likoudis is News Editor for The Wanderer newspaper.
RELATED: Ave Maria dossier at Cruxnews.com
Email editor: firstname.lastname@example.org Sign up to receive the Cruxnews.com weekly updates by email. signup
RELATED: Ave Maria dossier
Check out these great books by Michael S. Rose
Priest Portraits of Ten Good Men Serving the Church Today (2003)
Goodbye, Good Men How Liberals Brought Corruption Into the Catholic Church (2002)
Ugly As Sin Why They Changed Our Sacred Places to Worship Spaces--And How we Can Change Them Back (2001)
The Renovation Manipulation The Church Counter-Renovation Handbook
Tom Monaghan (left) feted by Crisis editor Deal Hudson
In the Spirit of Vatican Council II, "out with the old, in with the new."
Is it just me, or does Monaghan look like Al Franken in that picture?
I see Monaghan has as much success with a Catholic school as he did with the Tigers. Stick to pizza, Tom.
Although Monaghan may have a penchant for abandoning projects and modernist architecture, he's still way short of Mahony...
If only the Roj Mahal had been abandoned in favor of restoring St Vibiana's - but then again, given the meaning of "restoration" today, perhaps it was better that the old cathedral wasn't further mutilated.
This is an improper authoritative, decision-making structure for a Roman Catholic college.
Someone better contact the heads of Notre Dame, Boston College, Emmanuel, Regis, Holy Cross, Salve Regina, Seton Hall, etc., and let them know!
Monaghan's circus does not seem like the answer. Two wrongs do not make a right. Just because someone is conservative or orthodox on many issues does not make them automatically the best qualified to direct Catholic education. You CAN'T buy the authority to control a Catholic college. A college controlled by a corporate head like a private corporation is no longer functioning as a proper Catholic entity. That seems to have happened with the AMC/AMU mess.
During first mass at the building site, the priest gave one of the worst homilies I've ever heard. There was kind of a wierd feeling there (and a fierce wind), although feeling don't account for much.
I hope and pray that I'm wrong, but I've gotten wind of an anti-tradition mentality, which oddly enough you'll often find in circles that call themselves "orthodox". I heard rumors that not only is the Latin mass simply not being talked about, supposedly it will not be forbidden for some reason. I don't know if that has to do with these people or our crappy heirarchy here in Florida. Hopefully, I'm wrong about all of this and it's a rumor.
Also they had a radion station that they aquired just before easter that was 24/7 chant and classic Catholic music. It was wonderful. Then one day I turned it on and it was a country music station. Apparantly it had been sold.
Then there was the design of the church. I don't think they were trying to be modernistic (although it could appear as such), just maybe trying to be spectacular.
Despite the confusion, I had been hoping that AMU would go a long way towards furthering "deep" Catholicism. I guess we'll have to see.
It's too bad Monaghan can't contribute money and leave the operational decisions to those more qualified. He appears unstable.
It is all kind of odd, especially with the few things you add on, AAABEST. Hopefully, all the kinks will be worked out and all will be well. I know of a wonderful, faithful and orthodox priest from Boston College who quit BC and relocated to Ave Maria in Florida.
They must be kind of messed up internally, as well. Two small things. A few months ago they stopped taking the $10 dollars per month I was donating - it no longer appears on my monthly checking statement. About 6 months ago I wrote a couple of letters requesting information regarding purchasing an Ave Maria college sweat-shirt... my daughter had 'college name sweat-shirt' day at her Catholic HS and I figured it would be good advertising and LATIN and a little nod to Our Lady. I got no response at all.
I suppose you are perfectly happy to leave things to the Jesuits and the other Catholic in Name Only educational institutions. As usual, you Lefebvrists attack orthodox Catholics and thus provide useful support for the liberal dissenters trying to transform and tear down the Catholic Church.
"Is Georgetown University Committing Suicide?"
History Professor Relates School's Difficulties
To Lack Of Direction, Loss Of Christian Foundations
by Carroll Quigley, Ph.D.
Professor of History
(The Hoya, Friday, April 28. 1967)
And I suppose you are perfectly happy to leave things to the CCPA's and the other "Catholic" in Name Only Church..
After all, you assisted at their "masses".
At bedtime, do you pray to Mao or Allah first?
Did you even read the article? "Orthodox" Catholics are upset with Monaghan. The article has nothing to do with traditionalists.
Some of you have become one note Johnnys and Sallys, jumping into action every time you see a trad screen name.
That what happens when one hangs their religious hat on the whims of a man. He held out so much promise, but as soon as his interest wanes, everybody who depends on him is left empty handed. And it didn't take him long to reach his end.
Now he is building a monument to what he thinks God would like, but it is really a monument to man - him. But who will benefit? It just joins a long line of other monuments to man like the crystal catedral and the taj mahony.
If you read farther, you'd learn that he merely wants to transfer his school to Florida more quickly. Ann Arbor didn't want him.
"Monaghan lured a substantial segment of orthodox Catholic academia to Michigan, and then he annhilated them--their careers, their educations, all their work, gone without a trace."
He's not offering them the chance to transfer to Florida?
And what about these zoning problems? Did he move just on a whim, or because he was under attack?
AMU and anyone connected with it, may be Conservative, but they are one and all NEO Catholics, who practice the NEO religion at the NOVUS Order Mass, very far away from Tradition, or from even wanting to restore Tradition.