Dr. Seana Sugrue's political science class at Ave Maria University got a real-life lesson in politics on Thursday Oct. 1 when more than a half-dozen state and local politicians visited her class. The visit was part of a tour by several ranking Republican members of the Florida state senate who came to the AMU campus along with local state representative Matt Hudson and local Collier County Commissioner Jim Coletta.
"They were impressed with what is going on here, and pleased that it is happening in this part of the state," said AMU Marketing Director Forrest Wallace, who accompanied the delegation. "They were very interested in the vision and mission."
The delegation included Senate President Jeff Atwater, Ways and Means Committee Chairman J.D. Alexander, Community Affairs Chairman Mike Bennett and Senators Mike Haridopolos, Don Gaetz and Garrett Richter. All are Republicans and the state senator who represents the town of Ave Maria, Larcenia Bullard, was not in the delegation.
Sen. Bennett, who arranged the visit, said in an interview that it was the first time most of the senators had seen Ave Maria and "everybody was extremely impressed."
"I'm not even Catholic," Sen. Bennett said, "but every time I go to Ave Maria, I get excited. The energy, the momentum, and the kids -- what great kids!"
He said that he suggested to Senate President Atwater, who is Catholic, that they visit Ave Maria on their way to a scheduled fundraiser in Naples. "When the word got out that we were going to Ave Maria, then more senators wanted to come," he said.
The politicians spent about two hours on campus, lunching with staff and faculty, listening to a short organ recital in the oratory, and visiting Dr. Sugrue's class, where they answered questions from students about current political issues.