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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, September 6, 2003

Catholic university opens in Florida

Associated Press

Stephanie Galuszka, a political-science major from California, prays after Mass at Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla.

Associated Press

NAPLES, Fla. — Ave Maria University, the nation's first new Roman Catholic university in four decades, opened Tuesday with a Mass attended by the 101 students at its temporary campus.

The university was established by Domino's Pizza founder Thomas S. Monaghan, who has devoted himself to Roman Catholic causes since he sold the pizza chain in 1998.

"It's an extraordinarily exciting day because it's a culmination of a yearlong effort," university President Nicholas J. Healy said. "It's a very satisfying achievement."

Classes will be held in a development in North Naples until the school's $220 million permanent campus is completed in the fall of 2006. The interim campus, originally intended to be a senior citizens center, includes student and faculty housing, a library, a computer lab, a student center and a chapel, as well as faculty and administrative buildings and athletic fields.

The permanent campus will cover about 750 acres east of Naples and include a town, also named Ave Maria, and a golf course built on an additional 5,000 acres. School officials hope for an eventual enrollment of 5,000 students.

Bob Klatt, a 19-year-old sophomore who transferred from the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Ill., said he first heard of Ave Maria University after it was profiled on the cover of a Catholic magazine.

"I thought, 'Wow, this is everything I wanted,' " he said.

Klatt said he is not put off by the small student body.

"You know everybody and the student-to-teacher ratio is a lot better so you can get a lot of help," he said. "The cons ... well, there's not a lot of people here, so once you meet everybody, there's not more people you can meet. But that will change."

During Tuesday's Mass, the students committed themselves to the university's code of honor. Faculty members will also take an oath of fidelity to the church.

Monaghan did not attend the opening because of recent ear surgery, a school spokesman said. He is also chairman of Ypsilanti, Mich.-based Ave Maria College, the new school's sister institution.