LATROBE, PENNSYLVANIA — The Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, Jim Towey, will be the speaker at the 158th annual commencement of Saint Vincent Seminary, scheduled for Friday, May 7 in the Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the Seminary.
Mr. Towey is Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, a position to which he was appointed by President Bush in February, 2002.
Mr. Towey grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Accounting and Law.
He was a senior advisor to Republican U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield and Democratic Florida Governor Lawton Chiles. In 1993, Chiles appointed Towey to direct Florida’s health and social services agency – at that time the largest in the United States with 40,000 employees. Towey’s career in public service and his work in support of those in need have led to numerous honors, ranging from three honorary doctorates from universities to an award from Pope John Paul II.
Most significant in Towey’s life, however, was his work and friendship with Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Towey met Mother Teresa in 1985, visiting her home for the dying — an event he describes as the “defining moment” of his life. Towey went on to serve as legal counsel to Mother Teresa for 12 years and in 1990 lived as a full-time volunteer in her home for people with AIDS in Washington, DC. He had the privilege to travel on occasion with Mother Teresa and was sent by two U.S. Presidents to represent them at ceremonies in Calcutta and Rome in her honor.
He and his wife, Mary, have five children – all 12 and under.
The Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives was created by executive order on January 29, 2001. The office was tasked at its inception with leading a “determined attack on need” by strengthening and expanding the role of faith-based and community organizations in addressing the nation’s social problems. The goal of the program, under President George W. Bush, is to create a faith-friendly public square where faith-based organizations can compete equally with other groups to provide government or privately-funded services. As part of the executive order, President Bush also created Centers for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in seven cabinet departments — the United States Departments of Justice, Agriculture, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Education and the Agency for International Development — to promote this initiative.