Thomas S. Monaghan, the founder of Domino's Pizza, has announced that he will give at least $220 million to build a Catholic university and a town to support it on 5,750 acres near Naples, Florida, the Washington Post reports.
Ave Maria University will adhere to strict Catholic orthodoxy, with a school logo that bears the name of Pope John Paul II's 1990 encyclical on education. Conservative Catholics believe the encyclical is often ignored at many Catholic colleges. Monaghan, who has a history of advancing Catholic causes, has devoted himself to orthodoxy in Catholic education since he sold the Domino's chain in 1998 for a reported $1 billion. When asked why he would want to start a new university rather than give money to established Catholic education institutions, Monaghan said: "I don't comment on what other universities do. All I can talk about is what we want to do. We want to have a strong emphasis on the spiritual side, and if others don't do that as much now, maybe they'll follow our lead in the future."
Construction has already begun on a seven-acre interim campus that will be ready to receive students next fall. The permanent campus will open in 2005 or 2006 on 750 acres donated by Barron Collier Cos., a real estate and agricultural firm. In addition, a joint venture between Monaghan's Ave Maria Foundation and Barron Collier Cos. will develop 5,000 acres around the university to provide housing, shopping, and recreation for faculty and students, with the foundation's share of the earnings going to the university's endowment. The original plan was for the school to be built in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Monaghan's hometown and the headquarters for Domino's Pizza, but the township rejected a zoning variance for the campus.