Tag Archives: Veterans

Behind Every Good Soldier…

There is a reason why Ave Maria School of Law is considered a top military-friendly school by organizations like Victory Media.

“All of us here are of a mind to honor veterans. We want veterans at our school,” said Kevin Cieply, the president and dean of Ave Maria School of Law.

Military-friendly law school led by a veteran

Cieply, the president of Legatus’ Naples Chapter and a retired Army Judge Advocate General officer, said Ave Law has made a concerted effort to appeal to veterans who are interested in a law career. The law school has done that in various ways, from naming its library the Veterans Memorial Law Library to establishing a resource center and designated parking for veterans.

“We want to attract people who are going to go out into the world and be change-agents and bring faith to the practice of law,” Cieply said, adding that faith-filled veterans are a perfect fit for that mission.

“We’re talking about people who just don’t talk about serving others, serving their communities and serving the nation,” Cieply said. “These are people who have actually proved that that’s what they want to do and that’s what they can do.”

Second-to-none financial investment

Perhaps nothing signifies Ave Law’s commitment to having veterans in the classroom more than the school’s financial investment in their education.

Ave Maria School of Law provides the monetary difference between the government tuition benefits the veterans receive and the school’s tuition costs, meaning essentially that qualified veterans can attend the law school for free, with no limit on the number of veterans who can be accepted into the program.

Under the federal Yellow Ribbon Program, educational institutions such as Ave Law provide additional financial support for veterans whose Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits do not cover all of the tuition and fees at private degree-granting schools. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs matches each dollar of unmet charges the institution agrees to contribute, up to the total cost of tuition and fees.

Ave Maria School of Law funds all eligible veterans who participate in the Yellow Ribbon program at the maximum benefit level, giving them a legal education that is free of tuition and fees.

With law schools across the country, including Ave Law, becoming more selective with students in recent years, Cieply said Ave Maria School of Law has enough room and scholarship money for qualified veteran-students. He noted that the school’s founder, Tom Monaghan, a Marine Corps veteran who is also the founder of Legatus, has committed financial resources to assist veteran-students who are not eligible for or have already used up their benefits under the Yellow Ribbon Program.

“By doing these types of things, we hope to attract more veterans to our campus,” Cieply said. “But also, I’m hoping to be a place where we can symbolize that we’re a law school that wants to not only turn out veterans to the practice of law, but also be a place where veterans are honored, where we’re seen as a law school that does the right thing in respecting veterans.”

Current and former military personnel who have attended Ave Maria School of Law said they have seen firsthand the school’s commitment to veterans, which makes them feel that the Naples campus is a perfect fit for them.

Like-minded faculty and principles

“They’re very military-friendly. Many of the faculty have strong military background, and a lot of them understand their students who are serving in the Reserves,” said Nancy Nevarez-Myrick, a 2016 graduate of Ave Law who attended the school while serving in the U.S. Army Reserves as an officer in an airborne tactical communications unit.

Nevarez-Myrick, 31, who is now preparing to enter the U.S. Air Force as an active-duty JAG officer, said she had always thought about attending law school and was attracted to Ave Law when she visited the campus. In addition to having supportive professors and staff members, Nevarez-Myrick said the law school never failed her in making sure that she received all her financial aid benefits.

It also helped that her professors understood her commitments as an Army Reservist and gave her opportunities to make up class work when necessary.

“I felt like my professors understood me and the school understood me when I was giving my time to serve my nation,” Nevarez-Myrick said.

Even non-Catholic veteran feels at home

Joseph Bare, a retired Army veteran who just completed his first year at Ave Law, said he decided to attend the school after visiting the campus and finding that the school’s principles and values matched his own.

“Most veterans you would find share a pretty common value set, and I think you would find a lot of that fits with Ave’s principles, mission and values,” said Bare, 47, who is not Catholic but found himself at home on a campus that he describes as tight-knit and very supportive.

The school has taken great steps to helping veterans and continuing to look for things that the school can do to meet the needs of veterans, to be
that right fit for veterans who are looking for a law school,” said Bare, who would like to practice civil litigation in the area of individual rights and liberties. Bare said he was always interested in the law but delayed that pursuit because he loved his military career.

Exemplary presence of vets

Cieply said veterans such as Nevarez-Myrick and Bare bring maturity, motivation, duty and many other intangibles to the classroom and to the Ave Law community.

“Veterans bring a sense of service. You know they’re willing to do things for others,” Cieply said. “They bring a sense of maturity. They’ve been out in the world and have actually done some things. They’ve had to learn how to continue with life in a stressful environment, and make other parts of their life balanced, which is very difficult at law school.”

Along with the unique insight and good personal examples that the veteran-students bring to Ave Law is a commitment to physical fitness and carving out time during their studies to keep themselves “fit to fight.”

“We love to have that atmosphere in the school where people are being physically fit and at same time engaging 100 percent in their studies,” Cieply said.

When it comes to military service, Ave Law reflects its home state of Florida, which has the third largest population of veterans in the country with 1.5 million veterans, according to the school’s website. The law school currently has 11 veterans in its student body and another four expected to attend classes this fall.

Along with Cieply, two other JAG officers have had leadership roles in the law school. Ave Law’s board of directors also has several veterans, including a two-star admiral.

“It’s obvious they have a very strong commitment to veterans and to military history,” said Bruce Barone, the immediate past president of the Legatus Naples Chapter who is also a founder of the Veterans Memorial Law Library. Barone described the veterans’ presence on campus as a “natural, positive fit.”

“The program is phenomenal. It’s designed to appreciate and honor people who have provided time and their life to military service,” Barone said. “And the program offers a tuition-free legal education, which if you think about it is pretty incredible.” L

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer


Honor, duty and service

Born to refugee parents who had fled their native Hungary, Robert Ivany hardly seemed destined for a stellar military career that included service as an aide to an American president.

cover-july-aug-16After beginning his life in a hospital outside a displaced-persons camp in Austria, Ivany immigrated to the U.S. with his parents, settling in Cleveland’s Hungarian community and becoming a naturalized citizen at age 10. As he grew up and considered his future, he was attracted to the Army and applied to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

“It seemed like a very noble calling and, as I tried to figure out what to do, the mission and values that West Point portrayed drew me in,” said Ivany, a member of Legatus’ Houston Chapter and one of many Legates who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Dedicated Service

Tom Wessels, past president of Legatus’ Atlanta Chapter, retired in 2003 as a major general in the U.S. Army after six years of active duty and 31 years in the reserves. The son of a World War II veteran, Wessels knew as a high school student that he would go into the service. He began officer training after completing graduate school.


Robert Ivany

Jerry Schoenle of Legatus’ Ann Arbor Chapter, who served as a U.S. naval officer from 1984 to 1989, also heard a call to military life in high school and joined the Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps unit at the University of Michigan. He was commissioned as an ensign the same day he received his bachelor’s degree in engineering.

For Ivany, now the president of the University of St. Thomas in Houston, West Point turned out to be the beginning of a 34-year Army career during which he served in Vietnam, Germany, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S.

As a platoon leader in Vietnam with five tanks under his command, he was injured when a rocket fragment exploded, striking him in the back. He returned to combat within a few weeks and later received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. His last military position was commandant of the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa.

One of Ivany’s most challenging and enjoyable assignments was serving two years as a military aide to President Ronald Reagan. The position required him to be on duty every fourth or fifth day and to accompany the president outside the White House.

Robert Ivany

Robert Ivany

“If he went anywhere, the aide was in the car behind him, along with a doctor. If he was in California, one of us was with him up at the ranch. If he went horseback riding, we went horseback riding.”

Ivany said his up-close-and-personal view of Reagan was no different than the one the public saw. “I think all the aides would agree he was every bit as gentlemanly and sincere in private as he was in public. He was as gracious to the gardener in the Rose Garden as he was to the Queen of England when she walked into his office.”

What made Reagan so memorable, Ivany explained, was that he would make an extra effort to get to know people and establish a personal connection. Ivany believes this is one reason Reagan was able to achieve breakthroughs with the former Soviet Union — including the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Faith Foundation

Reagan’s diplomacy allowed Ivany to visit the land of his parents’ birth in 1990 as an adviser on the democratization of the Hungarian defense establishment. Even though had relatives in Hungary and spoke Hungarian at home, it was almost unfathomable that years later he would go as an American Army colonel to the country his parents had fled as the Soviet army approached.

During the last week of his month-long stay, he was able to have his father, mother, sister and wife Marianne join him. It was the first time in 45 years that his parents had seen their homeland.

Tom Wessels

Tom Wessels

Throughout his 34 years in the Army, Ivany said he never looked upon his service as a job, but rather a calling. The military, he said, taught him to determine and do the right thing.

“In order to do that, you have to have a spiritual foundation to your life,” he explained. “It’s more than material things in the world that truly make a life. I think that spiritual foundation has helped me a great deal and taught me perseverance.”

Ivany also credits his Catholic faith and his family for instilling in him the desire to do the right thing and to improve other people’s lives. West Point, where he later taught history and coached football, reinforced this — as did the Catholic chaplains he encountered and the intercession of those who prayed for him, he said.

Similarly, Wessels’ Catholic faith was a constant presence in his military life, which included service in Italy and Saudi Arabia. During his time as a commander, for example, his units always had chaplains, but not Catholic ones. He would attend the worship service and then seek out a Catholic Mass on his own.

“When I was a commander, they knew I was Catholic,” he said. “That’s what a Legate is. You live your faith, you talk your faith.”

Jerry Schoenle

Jerry Schoenle

Schoenle, who spent much of his career on nuclear Navy ships, said he has always had a strong sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence and would ask the Spirit to protect him, his fellow crew members and their vessel. Serving as a Eucharistic minister on board also helped him stay closer to his faith while away from home.

He experienced what may have been his greatest need for the Spirit’s protection in 1989 off the coast of Libya when two Libyan fighter jets went after two Navy F-14s during a training exercise over the Mediterranean. Schoenle’s cruiser, which was paired with the USS John F. Kennedy and armed with air-to-air missiles, was prepared to fire if necessary.

“We help protect the carrier by being able to shoot missiles at planes or other missiles,” Schoenle explained. “I was in charge of the main damage-control unit, standing by if there was any damage to the ship or casualties.”

After attempting to avoid the Libyans, U.S. pilots shot down the two MiG-23 fighter jets. Schoenle said the incident occurred near the end of a decade of tension between the U.S. and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Supporting Veterans

Jerry Schoenle

Jerry Schoenle

In part because of his own military experience, Schoenle — a member of Legatus’ board of governors and director of global trade services for Ford Motor Co. — knows the importance of praying for those in service. He urges Legates and others to intercede for them.

“They’re obviously in difficult situations combat-wise, but they’re under attack spiritually, too, because they’re often away from a support structure or parish.” Schoenle said Legates who are business owners can also help veterans or reservists by hiring them.

In addition, said Wessels, a Merrill Lynch wealth-management adviser, employers of reservists need to be aware of military requirements for weekend training and periodic deployments. He has worked on this issue through Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, which promotes cooperation and understanding between military reservists and their civilian employers. Wessels also helps the military as chairman of United Service Organization (USO) Georgia.

Ivany said Legates can assist active military by reaching out to those who live on bases and inviting those who qualify to join Legatus. He also urges Legates and others to write to active military personnel to thank them for their service.

“Those little things mean a lot,” he said, “by really being cognizant of the sacrifices they make.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.