New AMU president on Catholic higher education

Ave Maria University announced today that Tom Monaghan, AMU’s founder, will be stepping down as CEO, and Jim Towey will be taking over as president of the university:

“This is a huge win for Ave Maria University,” [Chairman of the Board of Trustees Michael] Timmis said. “We retain the vision and experience of our pioneers, while seamlessly handing over the reins to the next generation of leadership. It is the belief of the Trustees that Jim Towey is the most desirable Catholic university president in America today. And I am thrilled to announce that he is going to be our president.”

For those not familiar with Towey and his work, he was formerly the director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives under President Bush, and most recently the president of St. Vincent College in Pennsylvania. During his time at St. Vincent, he prepared a lecture on the aim of Catholic education that became an article in Crisis magazine:

The youth of today hunger for the real, the authentic — they want the fullness of life, not the emptiness they see around them. Every young person faces the same questions: Who am I? Why am I here on this earth? What is my purpose?


Catholics, Protestants, and youths of other faiths (or no faith at all) seek answers to these questions. We must be worthy guides. Rabbi Abraham Heschel, a great thinker and teacher of the 20th century, once said, “For the essence and greatness of man do not lie in his ability to please his ego, to satisfy his needs, but rather to stand above his ego, to ignore his own needs; to sacrifice his own interests for the sake of the holy.” . . .

It is my belief that [Jesus’ command to “love one another as I have loved you”] must be at the heart of a liberal arts education. We must help these young men and women emerge as bright, hopeful, helpful people. Without sacrificing academic excellence, we must long for their spiritual development — never coercing but always advancing our proud Catholic heritage. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI said, “When we bring people only knowledge, ability, technical competence and tools, we bring them too little.” He correctly identifies the failing of many institutions of higher learning — including many prominent ones that have strayed from their faith-based origins — to prepare young men and women for the broader purposes of life.

You can read the whole thing here. Best of luck to Towey and the AMU community as they begin this new chapter together.

Margaret Cabaniss


Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at

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