By Adrienne Conley and William Petry | Co-Editor-in-Chief, Staff Writer
As we enter into 2017, we’ve got momentum! This semester, over two-hundred students, faculty, administrators, and Board of Trustees members gathered for the historic groundbreaking of the new multi-purpose academic building at AMU. The $11 million dollar building, which is scheduled for completion by the Fall of 2018, will house a new nursing lab, campus ministry offices, faculty offices, over 37,000 sq. ft. of classroom space, and two new auditoriums: a 400-seat performance hall and a 125-seat auditorium specially designed for the nationally-recognized Shakespeare in Performance program.
The new addition to the university is more than just a building, it’s a symbol of growth and progress at Ave Maria. As our founder Tom Monaghan said in his speech, “there’s a reason there hasn’t been a building built here in six or seven years.” The university has experienced growing pains since its beginning in 2003. From its initial relocation to Southwest Florida in 2007, to struggles in 2009 with financing the women’s Megadorm, to fighting against the Federal Government’s mandate to provide contraceptive services on health plans for employees and students at the risk of fines that would bankrupt the university, Ave Maria has seen its share of struggles. But as President Towey said, “Just
as the serpent was powerless to harm Our Lady’s blessed Jesus, this university, as it remains true to its founding in faith and remains humble, will not simply survive challenges, but thrive through them.”
And thrived it has. Undergrad student enrollment has grown 70% since 2011, while recently added majors such as Accounting, Education, and Nursing provide a unique opportunity for graduates of AMU to carry the light of Christ to a wider range of workplaces.
It is a great joy at the university to have a building dedicated to the recently canonized saint, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. As Mr. Monaghan expressed in his speech, “I’m a dreamer, but I didn’t dream that big when I started Ave Maria.” God had the bigger dream, inseparably integrating Ave Maria University with Mother Teresa of Calcutta in in its mission and growing academic programs. It is especially fitting that the nursing program be relocated to a building dedicated to Mother Teresa. Sophomore and nursing major, Hannah Martin, reinforces this connection in remarking, “The nursing program is actually basing itself on Mother Teresa’s charisms, gearing everything towards service…it truly changes the dynamic and perspective of how we act and treat people.” Dr. Curtwright, the Chair of Humanities & Liberal Studies and Director of the Shakespeare in Performance, attested that both the Shakespeare in Performance and the Nursing program “are unique programs that inspire generosity. Each challenges students to share, not just their time or talent, but even more, so to make a sincere gift of self.”
The new auditorium for the Shakespeare in Performance program generates new enthusiasm for the troupe. Rachael Wisely, a senior and member of the Shakespeare in Performance troupe, says “This building is a beacon of hope for the future of Ave in the sciences, the faith, and the arts.” This momentum for both the nursing and arts programs expands the potential for Ave to reach people at different levels. In the same way nursing program, as said by Hannah, serves to “bring the light to people who might otherwise not be able to see it, and to be the one to comfort and care,” the performance hall will bring new light, comfort and care through the arts. Rachael emphasized that “performance can only be a service, a way to touch people’s hearts, minds, and souls, if the actor is freely giving him or herself to the depth of the text and to the audience.” Expanding the arts program and facilities is another valuable way to spread God’s love to the world. Jude Van De Voorde, a sophomore and member of the Shakespeare troupe, enthusiastically imagined the fruits of the auditorium extending to the audience. “When they come, they will see Shakespeare, but more importantly they, hopefully, will in some way experience the love of God”
The ceremony leaves a lasting feeling of peace that Ave Maria University is flourishing, and renews joy and hope as Ave Maria is reaching beyond the dreams of its founders. Colleen Kvetkno, a member of the Board of Trustees who participated in the 2007 university groundbreaking and now the 2016 multipurpose academic building groundbreaking, sums up our momentum: “This university is really positioned to grow and grow and grow… and more importantly for students like you to go out into the world and make it great again.”
Originally published in the January 2017 print issue of the Gyrene Gazette
Cover Photo by Colin Voreis