Why Tom Golisano Believes in Ave Maria University
By Deal W. Hudson
Last November 5, Ave Maria University celebrated a generous gift of $4,000,000 from Tom Golisano, chairman of Paychex, the second largest payroll processor in the U.S. It’s not surprising that Golisano’s gift, being owner of the Buffalo Sabres hockey and Buffalo Bandits lacrosse teams, will go to build its field house, where its sports teams will compete and wellness programs will take place.
Golisano is a well-known public figure in New York, having run three times for governor on the Independent Party ticket, and, most recently, having moved to Florida in protest of high state taxes in New York.
Some of Golisano’s political affiliations and comments have led to criticism of Ave Maria University for accepting his gift. The controversy was ignited immediately after the November 5th event and culminated in an article by The Wanderer on January 28. The Wanderer article called into question the relationship of Tom Golisano to Ave Maria University. It was entitled, “AMU Patron Golisano…Super Generous to Anti-Life Dems.”
Following the argument on some Catholic blogs, The Wanderer article cites three main pieces of evidence to back its criticism:
1. a 1994 New York Times article in which Golisano describes himself as pro-choice;
2. a $1,000,000 donation to the 2008 Democratic National Convention;
3. and his millions in support of the William J. Clinton Foundation.
At their regularly scheduled meeting in November (shortly after the controversy began), when the board and its committees met, the Golisano gift was thoroughly discussed. According to Paul Roney, AMU’s chief financial officer, after discussion, members of the board asked the administration to further verify its initial understanding of Golisano’s pro-life position. Following the meeting, the administration was thoroughly “satisfied” that the New York Times article was inaccurate and Golisano was pro-life; this was then conveyed to the board. Among those present at the meeting were Adam Cardinal Maida, Rev. Benedict Groeschel, Ambassador Michael Novak and chair, Michael Timmis. The issue was not brought up again at the February board meeting other than reports of the recent groundbreaking ceremony of Fieldhouse.
Nick Healy, president of Ave Maria University, told me that the board had relied on what Mr. Golisano had personally confirmed, but “since we continued to receive criticism, we decided to ask him to put it in writing.” Golisano readily agreed, “there was no resistance to that.” Golisano sent a letter to Thomas Monaghan, chancellor of Ave Maria dated December 3, 2009. In it, he claimed the New York Times misinterpreted him as being “pro-choice.” Golisano said, “I am pro-life now and have always been pro-life. I believe a woman’s ‘right to choose’ ends when sexual activity results in pregnancy. Hence, I do not believe that a woman should have a right to an abortion.”
Tom Golisano’s public declaration of his pro-life convictions was enough to convince Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, who had expressed his concern. Reilly wrote,
“I am relieved and grateful that Mr. Golisano has publicly opposed legalized abortion. This is the best possible outcome of a situation that helps demonstrate the importance of Catholic institutions refusing honors for public opponents of fundamental Catholic teachings and avoiding even the appearance of compromising Catholic identity.”
Deacon Keith Fournier, writing at Catholic Online, defended Ave Maria University against what he considered “petty, vicious attacks.” Fournier further explained, “It appears that Mr. Golisano, like most of us reading this article, is a work in progress. His long life reveals that he held some positions in the past which do not comport with those which he holds today. Some within certain segments of the Catholic blogging community were only too eager to point out those positions of the past.”
One thing about Tom Golisano is very clear – through his B. Thomas Golisano Foundation he has been a generous philanthropist. He has donated over 6 percent of his net worth ($1.3 billion) to charity. Much of his wealth has gone to universities, health care, Catholic education, science education, and services for people with developmental disabilities. (Golisano himself has a handicapped son.)
It’s unfortunate, in my opinion, that some Catholic bloggers have used their disagreement with Ave Maria University over Golisano to cast doubts on Tom Monaghan’s and AMU’s pro-life credentials. If anything about Monaghan is beyond reproach it’s his commitment to the protection of innocent life. His perseverance in the face of a boycott against Domino’s pizza by pro-abortion activists is a matter of public record. In other words, Tom Monaghan did not cringe, did not back down, but put everything on the line to stand up for his Catholic convictions.
In making his gift, Tom Golisano knew what both Tom Monaghan and Ave Maria University represented – a Catholic faith based upon a clear reliance on the Magisterium’s pro-life teachings. Tom Golisano gave his $4,000,000 to a man and an institution he believed in.