Conservative Spotlight: Ave Maria University

The left’s long march through the institutions, the success of which is evident almost everywhere, is nowhere more completely triumphant than in America’s institutions of higher education. Dominant on campus after campus, the left instills its hatred of inequality of all kinds into its students — except, in the left’s Orwellian fashion, of the types of inequality that it favors: hostility toward and discrimination against traditional Christians, men, white people, “heterosexists,” and other disfavored groups. Even America’s religious colleges — which included Harvard and Yale originally — have discarded God in order to practice the new, and very fundamentalist, faith of political correctness.

The situation has become so dire that tradition-minded people have founded new institutions of higher learning, and they are thriving. Christians are at the head of this trend. Among the rising new generation of schools is Ave Maria University, a conservative Roman Catholic institution funded in no small part by Thomas Monaghan, the former Domino’s Pizza magnate.

The main campus is planned for Naples, Fla., where the school has gotten underway with a small number of students, both undergraduate and graduate even though Ave Maria already has a college in Ypsilanti, Mich. Jesuit Fr. Joseph Fessio, the Naples-based chancellor of Ave Maria as well as the dean of its graduate division, said that the Ypsilanti campus may not continue. “We will have a complete campus in Naples and also a town outside Naples, which we will own. We will not sell any of the land to others. We are going to lease it out,” he said. “We have 5,000 developable acres.”

Fessio distinguished Ave Maria from other conservative Catholic colleges such as Virginia’s Christendom, California’s Thomas Aquinas, and New Hampshire’s Thomas More. “They are all excellent, but none of them has the intention of becoming a full-fledged university,” he said. “We will have five to six thousand students ultimately. We will offer a doctorate in theology this fall. Later, we will offer doctorates in philosophy. We have departments in physics, biology, and all the other subjects, and we will expand these.” They will include graduate departments some day, too, he said. Ave Maria currently offers graduate degrees including a Master of Theological Studies and a Master of Arts in Exceptional Education for those who wish to become schoolteachers.

“Dave chose Ave Maria University to improve himself through Catholic education,” says Ave Maria’s website of a first-year student. “In seeking an education, Dave said, ‘Rather than simply training someone to perform a specific job function, the formation which our school stands for actually teaches students to utilize their God-given talents and abilities in many aspects of everyday life. It helps us to actually understand this world, ourselves, and God’s plan for us.'”

In addition to being faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church on hot-button issues such as abortion and artificial contraception — “There will be no pornography or sale of contraceptives” in Ave Maria’s town, said Fessio — the university will also live by an integrated worldview. “Teachers introduce our students to the great tradition of theology, philosophy, history, literature, classical languages and natural sciences, imparting what Pope John Paul II calls ‘a unified and organic vision of knowledge’ (papal encyclical, Fides et Ratio),” says Ave Maria’s dean of faculty, William K. Riordan, S.T.D., in Ave Maria literature. “Students learn not just to memorize material, but to understand it deeply, appropriate it, and apply it to their lives. The members of our faculty are also excellent scholars. At the heart of every true university can be found professors who are actively engaged with the world and at the forefront of the search for truth in their respective field.”

Ave Maria has a law school in Ann Arbor, a study-abroad campus in Austria, and 490 mostly Nicaraguan students on a campus in Nicaragua. Fessio said that, looking at demographics, he expects greater focus on Latinos in the future. “I don’t see how Europe can avoid becoming a Muslim annex to North Africa,” he said. “The United States of America will be the last hope of transmitting Western Civilization to future generations.”

Ave Maria, which currently has 120 students at its Naples campus, is undergoing a rapid expansion. “We want to increase the size of the student body as soon as possible,” he said.

Fessio said that Ave Maria’s doctorate programs will be first-rate, attracting top professors as well as high-achieving students, who will receive not only free tuition but also living stipends. “Fr. Matthew Lamb is coming from Boston College,” he said. “We are getting very good people.”


Ave Maria may be reached at 1025 Commons Circle, Naples, Fla. 34119 (877-283-8648; fax: 239-352-2392; website: