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History of Ave Maria

piazza3The university and town of Ave Maria are a result of the combined vision of Catholic Philanthropist Tom Monaghan and the Barron Collier Company.

Mr. Monaghan, who made his fortune building and eventually selling the Domino's Pizza chain, had the dream of founding a new Catholic university. He initially founded Ave Maria College near his home in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The first campus could not accommodate future growth so Mr. Monaghan sought to move it to a parcel of land he owned in Ann Arbor, MI. When the town government turned down the necessary zoning variances, he looked for another site for the university in the United States and settled on the Naples, FL area.

The university arranged for temporary facilities in Naples and Mr. Monaghan sought enough land for a permanent home.

His search came to the attention of the Barron Collier Company, a diversified corporation controlled by the founding family of Collier County. The company had large tracts of land east of Naples that it wanted to develop, and had a vision of greater than a typical Florida residential development.

The company approached Mr. Monaghan with an offer: If Ave Maria University would locate to land Barron Collier wished to develop outside Naples, the company would give the university 1,000 acres and build a town around the university.

Mr. Monaghan and the university agreed, and became partners in the development with the goal that the real estate development would eventually become an endowment for the university.

Ave Maria University opened on its temporary campus in the fall of 2003. Construction on the permanent campus and the town of Ave Maria began in 2005. The town officially opened in July, 2007 and the permanent campus welcomed students at the start of the 2007-08 academic year. A private k-12 school, also opened for the 2007-08 academic year as the Ave Maria Grammar and Preparatory School. It was renamed the Rhodora J. Donahue Academy in February, 2009. The oratory in the town center, perhaps the most recognizable building in Ave Maria, was dedicated in March, 2008, by Bishop Frank Dewane of the Diocese of Venice. Chronological aerial photographs of the construction project are viewable here, the opening of the town reported by the Naples Daily News here, and the opening of the university reported here.

The first business to open in the town center was the coffee shop, The Bean of Ave Maria, which poured its first cup in December, 2007.

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