In January, President Christopher Ice began his term as the third president of Ave Maria University in Florida, which is recommended for its strong Catholic identity in The Newman Guide. The Newman Society recently asked President Ice about his vision and goals for the University in the years ahead.
Newman Society: Congratulations on your appointment as president of Ave Maria University! When Tom Monaghan founded the University 17 years ago, he presented a bold vision to answer St. John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization. What is your own vision, looking forward to the third decade of Ave Maria University?
President Ice: My vision is to maintain the solid, orthodox Catholic identity and principles upon which this University was founded. I want to strengthen the Marian identity in numerous ways, strengthen the Catholic identity in all areas of the University, expand the mission outreach efforts for our students through the Mother Teresa Project and help students discover the beauty of the truth of our Catholic faith to go forward and change the world. Our mission was founded in fidelity to Christ and His Church in response to the call of Vatican II for greater lay witness in contemporary society. This is front and center of everything we do. For example, on August 15, 2020, the 30th anniversary of Ex corde Ecclesiae, we launched a year-long study of St. John Paul II’s teaching on Catholic higher education.
Newman Society: Ave Maria University has always had a strong devotion to Our Lady. How does that impact the education and student experience on campus, and do you have any plans to build upon that devotion?
President Ice: Last March 25th, I consecrated Ave Maria University to Jesus through Mary, and a large number of students, faculty and staff joined me in their own personal consecration. We have students who are heavily involved in the Mary and Mercy Center that is spreading the message of consecration across all college campuses in the country and impacting thousands of college students. We have brought back the Angelus at noon, our students have a rosary walk every night at 9:00 p.m., we have perpetual Eucharistic adoration and our biggest celebration of the year, every year, is the Feast of Annunciation at the end of March. Recently, we added classes specifically for the study of Mariology which are taught by Dr. Mark Miravalle, one of the leading Marian scholars in the world. If it’s Marian, we are talking, teaching or celebrating in her name.
Newman Society: What most distinguishes Ave Maria from other faithful Newman Guide colleges?
President Ice: Our Marian identity and that we were founded as a lay apostolate and not affiliated with any religious order. This is unique, and this allows us to create a solid Catholic identity under the guidance of our local bishop and build a University that was founded in the spirit of St. John Paul II’s call for the new evangelization and working under the mantle of the Blessed Mother. There is no other university in the country that has a town and a university united in our Catholic faith, all founded by a similar vision.
Newman Society: In its early years, Ave Maria University had impressive markers of its Catholic identity, such as the Angelus at Noon, a dress code ensuring modesty, and dorm rules ensuring total privacy and security in bedrooms. As the student body grows, how can the University maintain a strong Catholic culture?
President Ice: The Angelus is back at the noon hour with the bell ringing once again this fall. Our student handbook still stresses modesty in all areas of dress and we are re-emphasizing some of the major points on St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body as a part of our freshman orientation, to help our students understand the importance of modesty and purity. We are a campus of many different countries and cultures and will educate them through our beautiful Catholic teachings in many areas. We need to show our students why we are doing what we are doing and the importance of the teachings of the Church. Educate and evangelize.
Newman Society: What are your top goals for Ave Maria University in the next five years?
President Ice: With the help of our board of trustees, we will develop the top five goals for the University over the course of the next year. One goal will remain consistent, and that is to create saints and help every student, staff and faculty member get to heaven. We have started a marching band that will expand our extracurricular activities. The other goals have been sidetracked with COVID-19 and getting our campus open. I will assure you they will be beautiful, bold and ambitious, and it will propel the University to become the leading orthodox Catholic university in the United States.