Monaghan sold Domino's in 1998 and has subsequently dedicated his time and considerable fortune to Catholic philanthropy and political causes. A champion of the pro-life cause, Monaghan has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on philanthropy and activism, which has garnered both appreciation and criticism. He and his wife, the former Marjorie Zybach, a Lutheran, were married in 1962 and have four adult daughters.
After his father died, Monaghan's mother had difficulties raising him alone, and Monaghan ended up in St. Joseph Home for Children in Jackson, Michigan, run by the Felician Sisters of Livonia. The nuns there inspired his devotion to the Catholic faith and later he entered a minor seminary, with the desire to eventually become a priest. Subsequently, he was expelled from the seminary for a series of disciplinary infractions.
Monaghan enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1956 by mistake; he had meant to join the Army. He received an honorable discharge in 1959. He then returned to Ann Arbor, Michigan and enrolled in the University of Michigan, intending to become an architect. While still a student, he and his brother James borrowed $500 to purchase a small pizza store called DomiNick's in Ypsilanti, Michigan. This business would grow into Domino's Pizza. Tom later traded his brother James a Volkswagen Beetle for his half of the business. A car like the one he traded now resides inside the main entrance into the Dominos World Resource Center in Ann Arbor.
Detroit Tigers owner
In 1983, Monaghan bought the Detroit Tigers, who won the World Series a year later. He became close to Major League Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who remained a close friend, business associate and participant in his many philanthropic works. Monaghan ultimately sold the Tigers to his competitor Mike Ilitch of Little Caesar's Pizza in 1992. Combining his passion for pizza and baseball, his 1986 autobiography was titled Pizza Tiger.Other business pursuits
After reading Mere Christianity by Christian author C.S. Lewis in 1989, Monaghan was shaken by what he considered his sinful pride and ego. He took two years off from Domino's to examine his life and explore religious goals.
Despite his enormous wealth, Monaghan divested himself of most of his ostentatious material possessions. He gave up his lavish office suite at Domino's headquarters, replete with leather-tiled floors and an array of expensive Wright furnishings, turning it into a corporate reception room. He also ceased construction on a huge Wright-inspired mansion that was to be his home. (The house remains half-finished.)[ He also built a mission in a Honduras mountain town, and funded and supervised the construction of a new cathedral in Managua, Nicaragua, after the old cathedral was destroyed in an earthquake.
He returned to Domino's in 1991 after its fortunes worsened and the company bounced right back. He infuriated the National Organization for Women (NOW) by donating to pro-life causes. NOW called for a boycott of Domino's, but it is unclear what effect, if any, that had on the company's sales. Domino's spokeswoman Holly Ryan said the company has posted record sales every year it had been in business. Monaghan sold his controlling stake in Domino's Pizza in 1998 to Bain Capital, an investment firm based in Boston, for an estimated $1 billion, stepping away from a pizza empire he grew from a single shop to about 6,100.[
Monaghan is a Catholic with a particular interest in pro-life causes and the appointment of pro-life Justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1983 he established the Mater Christi Foundation, today known as the Ave Maria Foundation. It is a private foundation formed to focus on Catholic education, Catholic media, community projects and other Catholic charities.
He helped form Legatus, an organization of Catholic business leaders to promote the ideals of the Catholic Church in society. The name was taken from the Latin word for ambassador. Legatus was to serve as a spiritual resource and social community for "top-ranking Catholic business leaders". The idea came after Monaghan received Holy Communion from Pope John Paul II in his private papal chapel at the Vatican in 1987. Today there are 60 chapters in the U.S. and Canada which encompass nearly 1,500 members who represent over 750 major firms.
That Vatican visit moved him so much he returned to the United States committed to promoting the Catholic faith. He soon established Ave Maria Radio, the Ave Maria List pro-life political action committee, and the Thomas More Law Center, a public interest law firm focused on defending the rights of Christians. The foundation donates resources to help alleviate poverty in Central and South America. In addition, his foundation established the Spiritus Sanctus Academies.These elementary schools are administered by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. This order of teaching sisters has benefited from Monaghan's philanthropy. In 10 years, it has grown rapidly, from 4 to 70 nuns.
The Ave Maria Foundation has subsequently fine-tuned its focus to higher education, and has established both a university and a law school. Along with that change in focus, many of the other non-profit entities that the Ave Maria Foundation established have become independent or are in the process of being weaned from Ave Maria Foundation grants. This narrowing of focus and the recent geographic re-alignment to Florida (see below) have ignited no small amount of controversy among those who share his religious convictions.
The Ave Maria School of Law,[ located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, opened its doors in 2000, and received full accreditation from the American Bar Association in 2005, the earliest possible date under ABA rules. The school was a dream of several professors from the University of Detroit Mercy, who publicly left that institution when it allowed several pro-choice members of the Michigan Supreme Court to appear at the school's annual "Red Mass." Professors Stephen Safranek, Mollie Murphy, Richard Myers and Joseph Falvey, setting out to form a new orthodox Catholic law school, presented their idea to Monaghan (who had previously been a strong supporter of opening a new law school at Franciscan University) to provide significant funding through his Ave Maria Foundation. Together they enlisted Bernard Dobranski, Dean at The Catholic University of America's law school and former Dean of Detroit Mercy's Law School, to lead up the new school as dean. Monaghan would serve as president of the school's Board of Governors.
Faculty members include noted conservative legal scholar and controversial Supreme Court nominee Judge Robert Bork. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia assisted in developing the school's curriculum, and the school's first annual Ave Maria Lecture was presented by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 1999. The school's stated goal is to educate competent moral attorneys who will influence all aspects of the legal profession and advance natural law theory.
As a step to fulfilling his dream of creating a new Catholic university, Monaghan founded Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti, Michigan. In various attempts to accelerate accreditation, Monaghan acquired St. Mary's College of Orchard Lake and a campus in Nicaragua, renamed Ave Maria College of the Americas. Both experienced dramatic changes in leadership and direction under Monaghan's influence.
Due to lack of funding, the college, against faculty and student protests, is in the process of "winding down" in preparation for a 2007 closure. Although the college continues to operate in Ypsilanti, as promised, through the 2006/2007 academic year, the current president has told students that graduating from Ave Maria College will mean receiving a substandard educational experience. To date, alternative funding has not been secured to prevent the school's closure. St. Mary's College was sold and is now under the auspices of nearby Madonna University.
The orchestral Ave Maria Mass,by composer Stephen Edwards, was commissioned by Monaghan "to express in music the spiritual commitment behind the founding of Ave Maria College and Ave Maria School of Law." This mass has now been dedicated by the composer to the victims of September 11.
Monaghan publicly promotes daily attendance at Mass, daily recitation of the rosary and frequent sacramental confession. He has also committed to spending what remains of his $1 billion fortune on philanthropic endeavors.
"Morally responsible investing"
Monaghan helped to establish the Ave Maria Mutual Funds by asking friend George P. Schwartz of Schwartz Investment Counsel, Inc. to launch the Ave Maria Catholic Values Fund in May 2001. There are now five Ave Maria Mutual Funds. They are described as targeted at investors seeking to place their money in companies whose operations are in keeping with the core teachings of the Catholic Church. The fund calls their shareholders "morally responsible investors." The funds are open to individual investors with a $1,000 minimum investment.
Monaghan is a member of the Catholic Advisory Board. The board sets the religious criteria that screen companies before the funds will invest in them. Involvement with contraception, non-marital partner employee benefits, pornography, and abortion are some issues that disqualify a company from the fund. Lou Holtz, Larry Kudlow, Michael Novak, Phyllis Schlafly and Paul Roney are the other members of the Funds' Catholic Advisory Board. Cardinal Maida (of Detroit) is the board's ecclesiastic advisor.
Ave Maria, Florida
Monaghan had originally sought to establish the Ave Maria University in Ann Arbor, at Domino's Farms, the large corporate office park that he owned and leased to Domino's Pizza. Local officials refused to approve the zoning change, forcing him to look elsewhere for a site. Eventually community leaders in Collier County, Florida, offered him a large undeveloped tract of land thirty miles east of Naples, Florida to develop the university.
In February 2006, ground was broken for the new Catholic university and town, Ave Maria, Florida. Monaghan controls all commercial real estate in the town, and plans to build 11,000 homes, an oratory, and several businesses. Pulte Homes has been signed up to build most of the private homes. Monaghan said in 2005 that any town retailers would not be allowed to sell contraceptives or pornography, a statement which drew fire from the ACLU. Threatened with lawsuits, Monaghan has since modified his stance on how tightly commerce will be controlled in the town. Defenders of Wildlife has also challenged the development, stating it is destroying habitat of the endangered Florida Panther.