Tom was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan on the Feast of the Annunciation - March 25, 1937 and baptized a few weeks later at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Ann Arbor. At the age of four his parents died and he was placed in a foster home and orphanage. But the one constant throughout those unsteady, growing years was his Faith. After graduating from St. Thomas High School in his home town in 1955, he matriculated to Ferris State College in Big Rapids, Michigan. But the draft caught up to him and he enlisted in the Marines to serve his country in 1956, receiving his Honorable Discharge in 1959 and returning to his home state where he enrolled at the University of Michigan. In 1960, he was faced with an opportunity he couldn't pass up. While studies were important, his career was moreso and, borrowing $500 from his brother James, he bought a small pizza shop called DomiNick's in Ypsilanti just west of Ann Arbor. Tom opted to drop out of the University to run it.
Tom's venture into business came shortly after another young entrepreneur southeast in Chicago also had borrowed $500 to start his own empire; an enterprise that would go international and introduce the decline of morality into the mainstream of American society. That man was Hugh Hefner who started Playboy. Whereas Hefner opted for the world, Tom was using his enterprise to build something of value that would be traded in for something of even greater value so that ultimately he will be able to attain the Greatest Value - Heavenly bliss.
Within a year Tom had paid back his brother in the form of his Volkswagen, effectively buying him out and formed another partnership while opening additional outlets in Ann Arbor and Mount Pleasant, a small college town about 100 miles due north of Lansing, Michigan where Central Michigan is located. Tom plunged into all aspects of the business including doing some delivery himself. It was here that God led him one evening to his future wife Marjorie, who was a student at the time working the switchboard at one of the campus dorms at Central Michigan. He dropped off the pizza, then made an excuse to return later and summoned the courage to ask her out. They were married a few years later and today have four daughters, Mary, Susie, Maggie and Barbara and seven grandchildren.
It wasn't long until his pizza business mushroomed because of the ingredients and excellent service. With some creative financing he changed the name of his enterprise to Domino's in 1963. The ensuing years would launch Domino's into becoming the world's largest pizza delivery chain. Always the innovative one, Tom is credited with developing dough trays, the corrugated box, the insulated containers that keep the pizzas hot, the pizza screen, a conveyor oven, the concept of increasing efficiency by getting the pizzas to the customer within a certain time period or it's free, and a unique franchising system that enables managers and supervisors to become franchisees. This was never possible with McDonald's or other fast food companies unless the manager or supervisors had quite a bit of money to invest. Tom's ideas have since been copied by many and he's received numerous accolades and awards for his ingenuity.
In 1983 he purchased the Detroit Tigers Baseball Club, bringing a world championship to Motown a year later in 1984, beating the San Diego Padres four games to one in the World Series. In 1985 his mercurial rise was documented in his autobiography Pizza Tiger co-authored by Robert Anderson. But something was missing in Tom's life. He had it all, but still he felt unfulfilled. A strong pro-lifer who had spoken out on behalf of the Sanctity of Life, his journey toward his ambitions today began in the late eighties when he donated thousands to Operation Rescue for the pro-life cause and was immediately called on the carpet by NOW and Planned Parenthood. They tried to mount a feminist boycott and it backfired big time on them. With every boycott by a feminist of one or two pizzas, pro-lifers came out of the woodwork to purchase double and triple the amount. Though Tom never intended it, the controversy catapulted Domino's into the national limelight and became a national leader in the food business. Tom built a complex for the headquarters of the company called Domino's Farms which included a small chapel where he and his Catholic employees could attend Daily Mass and then an 8:30 prayer with his staff.
On that same complex today is a Catholic Montessori School called the Shepherd School, plus a Spiritus Sanctus Academy, a new Catholic high school under construction, as well as a 28,000 square foot motherhouse for the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, a new religious order of nuns who teach at the academies and was founded by Cardinal John J. O'Connor.
In 1983 Tom established the Mater Christi Foundation which is today the Ave Maria Foundation. It is a private foundation formed to focus on Catholic education, Catholic media, community projects and other Catholic charities which he has dedicated himself to ever since. Seeing that what he was doing was right, he was inspired to contact a group of Catholic business leaders and form Legatus, a strong Catholic organization of high profile, influential Catholic business leaders nationally to promote the ideals of the Church in society. The name was taken from the Latin meaning "ambassador" for Legatus was to serve as a spiritual-home base for those Catholics who stand at the helm of America's entrepreneurial ship. The idea came after Tom received Holy Communion from Pope John Paul II in his private papal chapel at the Vatican in 1987. It moved him so much he returned to the United States committed to promoting all the Holy Father was advocating.
Thus Legatus was formed with chapters in all major cities where major Catholic business leaders can come together once a month for Mass, prayers and encouraging each other to take the Gospel of Life encompassing human dignity and God's precepts back to the business sector. "I want to make Legatus an international organization reaching every market in the world," reasons Monaghan, "forming a chapter as soon as there are enough Catholic CEO's to have one. I believe CEO's, heads of companies are the most talented leaders among the laity of the Church. They have more to offer where there is a shortage of leadership and not enough priests. It's a multiplication thing, and they can set the example, be witnesses. People look up to those who are successful." They have been quite successful and influential, making an annual trip each year to the Vatican including a private audience with the Holy Father. Today there are 34 chapters in the U.S. and Canada which encompasses nearly 1,500 members who represent over 750 major firms.
Still Tom knew he should do more. Realizing he was spreading himself thin with so many irons in the fire, he decided to sell the Tigers and his competitor Mike Ilitch, who owns Little Caesar's Pizza parlors, was only too happy to take the club off his hands for a healthy sum in 1992! The team hasn't had a winner since. Next up was the unthinkable: to sell Domino's. With the phenomenal success of Domino's which had grown from one small store in Ypsilanti to 6,250 outlets it was not hard selling his stock in the pizza conglomerate. In 1998 he took that leap of faith and sold his interests to Bain Capital, Inc. for an estimated one billion dollars, leaving behind its day-to-day operations, which he had overseen for 38 years. Though he remains on the Domino's Board of Directors in an advisory capacity, he has, for the most part left the secular world of business behind to concentrate on his new vocation. "God's been very good to me," Monaghan summed it up. "This is something I wanted to do for some time - to get out of the pizza business and get on with things that are more important. I call this the main event."
That enterprise had Wall Street and many know-it-alls shaking their heads when he announced that he planned to work for God and die broke. But Tom has a method to his madness and, if successful, and there's no reason to doubt it won't be with his touch and the additional help of the Holy Spirit Who is guiding this enterprise of Ave Maria Foundation, it will not only be a huge success but also could set the tone in Catholic Universities for the new millennium.
Tom has poured a healthy sum of his Domino's and Tigers' earnings into the Ave Maria School of Law which became official in April of this year when he announced the new university would be "the ideal Catholic law school...the West Point for Catholic laity in the years to come." In a short time he has gathered a who's who of advisors, professors, and directors. Is it a good idea? One only need hear the infamous Richard McBrien the former head of the Notre Dame Theology department and noted modernist who is the liberal media's darling. McBrien believes it's a bad idea. Consider also that modernist Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee is opposed to it, calling it "isolationism" outside the mainstream. With those kind of opponents you know Tom is on to an excellent idea! To solidify that thinking, look who's in his camp as his Board of Governors: Cardinal John J. O'Connor, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, President of Franciscan University, and Father Joseph D. Fessio, S.J., founder of Ignatius Press, The Catholic World Report and the Catholic Dossier as well as co-founder of Catholic Radio which Tom has helped fund.
Tom is totally committed to upholding Catholic education as he asserts, "I'm interested in Catholic education at every level, from pre-K through college. I want to set a standard, set the example, because students believe what they see. I want excellent teaching in faith and academics. I want to show it can be done so that many organizations will copy and the effects will multiply." To that end he has also recruited excellent lay people of renown such as former Catholic University and University of Detroit Mercy Dean of Law Bernard Dobranski as the new Dean of Law at Ave Maria School of Law. Also serving on the Board of Governors are Helen M. Alvare, Director of Planning and Information for Pro-Life Activities at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops; Congressman Henry Hyde U.S. House of Representatives; the Honorable William P. Clark, Chief Executive Officer of Clark Company and Senior Counsel to the law firm of Clark, Cali and Negranti who served as United States Secretary of Interior, Advisor to the President for National Security Affairs, Justice of the California Supreme Court, and numerous government posts; and the Honorable James L. Ryan, Federal Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and Former Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.
In addition, Monaghan has added Robert P. George who holds the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence Chair at Princeton, among the most prestigious endowed professorships in American higher education; Charles E. Rice, Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame Law School and Internationally recognized pro-life scholar and Gerard V. Bradley also a Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame and co-editor of the American Journal of Jurisprudence who advised Tom to hire faculty members who not only were Catholic, but lived their Catholicity to the fullest. Tom agreed.
The first faculty member he signed was Judge Robert H. Bork, the exemplary Catholic who has served with distinction as a judge, lawyer, scholar, government official, and professor of law and was Acting Attorney General of the United States, a U.S. Supreme Court nominee, and well respected in all circles of society. With that kind of leadership and clout behind him, Tom is onto something big, mighty big in respect to Catholic education and the formation of future lawyers in this country. He also has hopes of someday establishing Oasis Centers, special dorms near all major universities where students can live and come together in prayer, reinforcing their Faith while living a life of grace.
He began Ave Maria School of Law "because a lot of damage to society has been done in the courts. They've gone beyond what they're supposed to do." He is intent on bringing morality and law closer in harmony in the same vein as the Pope's most recent encyclical a year ago Fides et Ratio proclaims. He pulls no punches when he expounds on education, "I'm really disappointed in Catholic education in this country. It's been secularized. I feel Catholic education in the U.S. has been watered down - generally, not across the board. In order for someone to be a committed Catholic, he or she needs to know why, and learning the catechism can't be an occasional thing." For more on the Ave Maria School of Law, we refer you to www.avemarialaw.org
Our Lord said in Luke 12: 48, "But of everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and of him to whom they have entrusted much, they will demand more." Thomas S. Monaghan is a perfect example of someone to whom much has been given and has responded in kind by doing all Jesus asks. He realizes his charge as he confirms, "If I'm in a position to change things, I must do it. There's a prevailing belief that the end justifies the means, but no one has a right to do wrong." This goes for abortion and the media which Tom is quick to take on, especially in regard to the Catholic bashing that persists more than ever: "The Catholic Church is the group most persecuted, most criticized by the media. I want to tell people the religious side of the story. The media thinks talking about such things as God, religion and spirituality are taboo, and much that has been written and broadcast is anti-family. I want to use media to teach the faith and dispel myths about the Church. I'd like to see faith a much more important part of people's lives." To that end he has been instrumental in helping establish Catholic Radio under the direction of Father Fessio and the radio management expertise of John Lynch.
Today Thomas S. Monaghan has proven you don't need a degree to follow God's Will and he stands shoulder to shoulder with the most learned in the world as a major force for the future of Catholic education. All this from an orphaned young adult who transformed $500 into a billion dollar empire and gave it all back to God because, as Thomas puts it regarding all his philanthropic activities and dedication to commitment, "I believe the most important thing in life is to get to Heaven and to take as many people as possible with me." That is the signature of a committed millionaire who has the ways and means to be much richer in graces as a crusader for Christ and His Church in the new millennium.