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Although best known as the founder of Domino’s Pizza and former owner of the Detroit Tigers baseball franchise, Thomas S. Monaghan is currently devoting his attention full time to non-profit endeavors, specifically in his role as chancellor of Ave Maria University, which is located just outside of Naples, FL. In addition to his role as chancellor of Ave Maria University, he also serves on multiple boards.
Monaghan was born in Ann Arbor, MI in 1937. His father died four years later, ushering in a childhood spent largely in an orphanage and a succession of foster homes. After graduating from Ann Arbor’s St. Thomas High School in 1955, and enrolling at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, MI, Monaghan enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1956. Honorably discharged three years later, he returned to Ann Arbor, where he enrolled at the University of Michigan.
While still a student, Monaghan founded the pizza chain that would soon become Domino’s Pizza. He and his brother, James, borrowed $900 to buy a small pizza store called DomiNick’s in Ypsilanti. He later bought his brother’s share of the business, and opened additional stores in Ann Arbor and Mt. Pleasant, MI. Soon after opening his third store, he changed their name to Domino’s Pizza with the now universally recognized logo with three dots – originally one for each store. Domino’s was the first pizza chain to focus exclusively on delivery.
By 1998, Domino’s had 6,250 stores, and ranked as the world’s largest pizza delivery chain, pioneering a number of industry innovations inspired by Monaghan. Among other industry innovations, he is credited with developing dough trays, the corrugated pizza box, insulated bags to transport pizzas, the pizza screen, a conveyor oven and a unique franchising system that enables managers and supervisors to become franchisees. The story behind Domino’s Pizza (including the many obstacles and setbacks Monaghan overcame and the path he took to success) was compiled for the first time in his 1986 autobiography, Pizza Tiger, published by Random House.
On December 21, 1998, after running the company for thirty-eight years, Monaghan sold Domino’s Pizza to Bain Capital, Inc., in order to devote his full time attention to his non-profit activities.
In 1998, Monaghan provided the impetus for a major initiative in Catholic higher education by founding an institution in Ypsilanti, MI which would eventually become Ave Maria University. The university is now a liberal arts institution located in Ave Maria, FL (just outside of Naples) designed to prepare students for leadership in academics, professional occupations, and service to the greater community. In addition to his work with the university, Monaghan also provided the initial funding for Ave Maria School of Law, which was founded in Ann Arbor, MI, but relocated to Naples, FL during the summer of 2009 (for which Monaghan serves as chairman of the board of governors).
Through his private foundation (The Ave Maria Foundation), he also establish many non-profit organizations, including Legatus (Latin for “ambassador”), an international organization of Catholic CEO’s and presidents committed to studying, living and spreading their faith through their professional and personal lives; a series of Catholic elementary schools (Spiritus Sanctus Academies); the Ave Maria Radio Network which provides programming for more than 160 stations around the country; and the Thomas More Law Center, a public-interest law firm that provides legal counsel to organizations and individuals whose religious and other freedoms are threatened.
Over the years, Monaghan has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the International Franchise Association (IFA) Gold Plate Award (1983); the Horatio Alger Award (1995); the 1986 IFA Entrepreneur of the Year Award; the Napoleon Hill Award (1987); the Pope John Paul II Family Fidelity Award (1988); the 1990 Marine Corps Leatherneck Award; the 1999 NRN / MUFSO Pioneer of the year award, as well as numerous religious and philanthropic awards for his generous support and tireless work in helping others. He has also received honorary degrees from twelve universities around the world, and in March of 2000, he was named an Honorary Fellow of Magdalene College within Britain’s University of Cambridge.
* The Story of Domino’s Pizza – The Company that Revolutionized Pizza Delivery
* Founding and Building a Pizza Empire through Turbulent Times – Managing with a Vision
* Tiger Tales – Owning the ’84 World Series Champion Detroit Tigers and the Winningest Team of the 80’s
* Five Priorities to Live By – How these Priorities have Guided my Life
* Rags to Riches to Rages – The Journey of Entrepreneur Philanthropist
* A Vision for Ave Maria University (and Town) – The Story of the Founding of not only a new university, but a whole new town…