Long-time AMU Supporter Dismissed from President's Council after Raising Issues

Published on Friday, 27 March 2015 15:26

In a recent email to members of Ave Maria University's advisory President's Council, AMU Vice President of Institutional Advancement Kevin Joyce invited members to share any concerns or questions with him or President Jim Towey. Apparently, though, the sharing of concerns between individual members of the President's Council and other council members – as well as the Board of Trustees – has constituted a dismissible offense. The first paragraph of Mr. Joyce's email apologizes that a long-time member of that council, Peg Meyer, would share such concerns with them and refers to Mrs. Meyer as a "former member" of the Presidents' Council.

fountainMrs. Meyer, and her husband, Larry, are among AMU's earliest major supporters. In addition to substantial monetary gifts, they donated the signature fountain that is directly across from the oratory and they were among the first to buy a condominium in the Ave Maria town center, long before construction even started.

The Meyers earned the disapprobation of the AMU administration by sending an email to members of the Board of Trustees and the President's Council entitled, "The Dismantling of [AMU Founder] Tom Monaghan's Dream, " including more than 60 letters from faculty, staff, students, parents and donors. Letters obtained weeks ago by The Ave Herald from sources other than the Meyers expressed concerns about various aspects of AMU's direction such as its Catholic character, caliber of its academics, behavior of students, campus safety and an atmosphere of intimidation at AMU. Mrs. Meyer's email was sent only to members of the board and President's Council as advisers to the administration. Some recipients said the letters were protected from being copied or forwarded because the Meyers wanted matters addressed privately without publicity that they felt might be harmful to the university.

In a response several days later sent to board and President's Council members, and distributed to faculty, Mr. Monaghan said that AMU President Jim Towey has his full support and that Mr. and Mrs. Meyer should trust that the board would act in the best interest of the university.

Mrs. Meyer's response, saying that the founder had not addressed most of the concerns she raised, was followed by the email from Mr. Joyce referring to her as a "former member" of the council and saying, "I feel sad for [the Meyers] and will keep them in my prayers, and I urge you to do the same."

According to those who had spoken with the Meyers, they were not sent a copy of the email from Mr. Joyce and learned that Mrs. Meyer was evidently dismissed from the President's Council only after hearing of it from others.

Board of Trustees Chairman Michael Timmis, in a note to AMU faculty and staff March 17, said the board had given the university administration the responsibility for looking into the concerns that have been raised, even though some of those concerns involve actions by the administration itself. He said the investigation would include interviews of faculty and staff who expressed concerns to the board of trustees conducted by one or both of the university's two staff attorneys, Bill Kirk and Helen Altomari.

Ave Maria University has a history dating back to before the current administration of dealing aggressively against those who questioned its direction. Fr. Joseph Fessio, the school's original chancellor and provost, was fired twice, the second time in the summer of 2009 when he raised questions about the university's financial sustainability – questions that proved to be justified given that President Towey now says that the school was virtually "bankrupt" when he arrived in the spring of 2011. Before Fr. Fessio's dismissal, a board member, Massachusetts businessman Vic Melfa, who posed similar questions about the school's finances during a board meeting in early 2009, was kicked off the board.