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By JOHN OSBORNE
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
AVE MARIA — The Ave Maria School of Law has received a final blessing from the American Bar Association for its move to Southwest Florida and will relocate to Collier County from Ann Arbor, Mich., on July 1.
About 200 people attended a ballroom-reception at the Ritz-Carlton on Vanderbilt Beach Road on Tuesday to welcome the school into the community. The law school, which currently educates about 300 students, will be located at Ave Maria’s Vineyards campus between Pine Ridge and Vanderbilt Beach roads, according to law school director of development Bill Coburn.
“There’s been a lot of uncertainty about whether or not the law school was coming down and where it would be located,” Coburn said as dozens of attendees sipped mixed drinks and enjoyed hors d’oeuvres before the speeches began. “Everything is falling into place nicely now, and we’re excited to be invited to Naples to become a part of this wonderful community.”
Ave Maria founder Tom Monaghan, who sits on the boards of both Ave Maria University and the law school, served as keynote speaker for the event. Monaghan said the trials and tribulations that surrounded the sanctioning of the move are in the past now.
“We were originally going to be located on 1,600 acres near the Domino’s headquarters in Michigan, but we couldn’t get the zoning approval, so we decided to come to the best place in the world – Southwest Florida,” said Monaghan, who founded Domino’s Pizza in 1960 and once owned the Detroit Tigers.
Monaghan said many of the same problems that plagued the opening of Ave Maria University also plagued the law school’s move to Naples.
“It’s proved incredibly difficult,” he said. “There were some faculty members who really dug in their heels and resisted the move, in addition to waging a smear-campaign in the media. With the final hurdles out of the way for the move to Florida, we’re a little wounded, but the most important components are still intact.”
Those components, Monaghan said, include a world-class faculty and the goal of establishing a top-tier Catholic law school.
“There’s a real need to have a law school that produces ethical lawyers,” Monaghan said. “Lawyers run the country, and unfortunately, most of the law schools are blatantly liberal. This country needs a school like the Ave Maria School of Law to bring God back into our courtrooms and back into society. Everything is in place for us now to become one of the finest Catholic law schools in the country, and one of the finest law schools, period.”
Starling Hendricks, president of the Collier County Women’s Bar Association, said the local legal community is eager to welcome the Ave Maria School of Law into its ranks.
“We’re very excited, optimistic and hopeful for the future of our legal community and for the future of our community in general,” Hendricks said. “When I heard that the law school was moving here, I reached out to my colleagues in Lee and Collier counties, to the private and public sectors, as well the judiciary, and asked why they thought it was important to have a law school in our area.”
The answers, Hendricks said, ranged from the importance of having a law school in a “significant economic region such as Southwest Florida” to the pressing need for a law library in the area.
“Overall, one theme emerged,” Hendricks said. “Everyone just has a
tremendous sense of hope.” For more information on the Ave Maria School of
Law, visit www.avemarialaw.edu.