Why Tom Golisano Believes in Ave Maria University

Deal W. Hudson
February 23, 2010

Last November 5, Ave Maria University celebrated a generous gift of $4 million from Tom Golisano, chairman of Paychex, the second largest payroll processor in the United States. Given that Golisano is the owner of the Buffalo Sabres hockey team and Buffalo Bandits lacrosse team, his gift will go to build a field house, where the school will hold wellness programs and where its sports teams will compete.

Golisano is a well-known public figure in New York, having run three times for governor on the Independent Party ticket. Most recently, he moved to Florida to protest the high state taxes in New York.

Some of Golisano’s political affiliations and statements have led to criticism of AMU for accepting his gift. The controversy erupted immediately after the November 5 event and culminated in an article in The Wanderer on January 28. The piece questioned the relationship between Golisano and the university – it was titled, “AMU Patron Golisano… Super Generous to Anti-Life Dems.”

The Wanderer cites three main pieces of evidence to back up its criticism:

  1. a 1994 New York Times article in which Golisano describes himself as pro-choice;
  2. a $1 million donation to the 2008 Democratic National Convention; and
  3. his millions in support of the William J. Clinton Foundation.

At their board meeting in November, shortly after the controversy began, AMU’s board and committees discussed the Golisano gift. According to Paul Roney, the school’s chief financial officer, 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 “satisfied” that the New York Times article was inaccurate and that Golisano was indeed 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 board chairman Michael Timmis. The issue was not brought up again at the February board meeting, other than to report on the recent groundbreaking ceremony for the field house.

AMU president Nick Healy told me that the board had relied on what 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 Monaghan, AMU’s chancellor, dated December 3, 2009. In it, he claimed the New York Times misinterpreted him as being “pro-choice.” “I am pro-life now and have always been pro-life,” Golisano said. “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.”

Golisano’s public declaration of his pro-life convictions was enough to convince Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society:

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 AMU 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 more than 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 has a handicapped son himself.)

It’s unfortunate, in my opinion, that some Catholic bloggers have used their disagreement with Ave Maria University over Golisano to cast doubts on 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, 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, Golisano knew what both 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 million to a man and an institution he believed in.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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