Domino's Pizza founder opening Catholic university

Dec. 26, 2002

NAPLES, Fla. -- Thomas S. Monaghan, the founder of Domino's Pizza who sold the chain four years ago for $1 billion, has vowed to turn away from pride and materialism and focus on improving Catholic education in the United States.

Monaghan, 65, is donating $200 million to start Ave Maria University near Naples, Fla. The university will offer a solid grounding in philosophy and theology, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

"I kind of liken it to a spiritual military academy," Monaghan said. "I think history is nothing but one big war between good and evil, and we have to produce leaders that can make a difference."

Monaghan will invest another $50 million to develop a town around the university. The town will be developed by his partner in the venture, Barron Collier Cos. The company has donated 750 acres for the campus and one golf course. The two entities plan to split profits from the town, with the university's share going to its endowment, according to the paper.

The rural campus is expected to open in 2006 with about 600 students. Classes will begin in fall 2003 on an interim campus near Naples. Administrators see enrollment climbing to 5,000 or so in a few years. The town of Ave Maria will include apartments and homes that will house the school's faculty and staff along with its own town center and stores, according to the report.

Ava Maria University is a response to what Monaghan sees as a slippage in the teaching of philosophy, theology and church history at other Catholic universities, including Notre Dame.

"They may be fine schools academically, but I believe that they could be more spiritual than they are," he said.

The university will be the cornerstone of an organization founded by Monaghan in 1983, the Michigan-based Ave Maria Foundation. The foundation operates a Catholic business group, a law center that defends Christian causes in court, a newspaper, a law school, a Catholic radio network and an online meeting place for Catholic singles.

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