Conserving Terri Schiavo’s Story
A permanent home for the Terri Schiavo Archives at Ave Maria University

Terri Schiavo’s 2005 death by starvation and dehydration marked the start of the cultural slide toward normalizing euthanasia and sanctioning assisted suicide. Knowing the true story of Terri’s fight is increasingly important for students and researchers seeking to understand the roots of the culture of death in America.

Since Terri’s death, her parents and siblings—Mary and Robert Schindler, and siblings Bobby and Suzanne—have envisioned there being a supportive, permanent home for the public records that tell the story of Terri’s fight. Thanks to Ave Maria University’s Canizaro Library, the Schindlers have found that home.

“We knew that my Terri’s death wouldn’t be the last time someone was fatally denied food and water in this country,” reflects Mary Schindler, Terri’s mother. “She had a brain injury. She wasn’t terminal, she wasn’t dying. She was conscious. We knew when she was killed that she was just the first victim of a new American euthanasia mentality.”

It was this conviction that led the Schindlers to preserve dozens of boxes worth of materials that work together to tell the story of Terri’s fight, with the belief that future researchers inquiring into the history of American euthanasia would need to understand Terri’s story in an unbiased and straightforward way. Ave Maria University represented an ideal candidate for such a home, and the university’s Canizaro Library turned out to be a trusted, permanent home for such precious materials.

“After my father’s death,” recounts Bobby Schindler, “our family held his funeral Mass at Ave Maria’s Oratory. So the town has been special to our family since its founding. When we realized that Ave Maria University could be a home for these records, we were so pleased with the idea of these materials finally having a permanent place.”

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The Terri Schiavo Archives will be available for privileged access to students, researchers, and visitors interested in learning more about Terri’s fight, available by inquiring with Ave Maria University’s Canizaro Library directly. The archives include key materials from the Schindler family’s legal and medical battles on behalf of Terri, as well as international correspondence pertaining to Terri’s case and an exhaustive collection of newspaper articles in the years leading up to her death. The Terri Schiavo Archives represent the first ever comprehensive collection of the records pertaining to Terri’s fight, and the first time these materials are available to the public.

“We were thrilled to donate these materials to Ave Maria University,” reflects Tom Shakely, executive director of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network. “We know Terri’s case remains profoundly important not only in itself, but also in relation to the larger fights for the dignity of the human person.”

“Terri lived and died only hours from where Ave Maria has grown, but more than that this town and university embody a stark and distinctive way of life from the rest of secular culture. If there’s any place that the Terri Schiavo Archive belongs, it’s here, where Christians pray literally feet away in a 24/7 Adoration Chapel. This university carries on the faith Terri lived, and this town enculturates the values that inspired her family’s heroic fight to save her life from an indifferent husband while combating the distortions and lies that portrayed Terri as comatose, unresponsive, ‘on life support,’ or otherwise something less than human.”

A special symbol of Bobby Schindler’s appreciation to Ave Maria University for hosting the Terri Schiavo Archives can be found just feet from the main entrance to the Ave Maria Oratory, which is the community’s place of worship directly in the center of town. This symbol is a specially engraved paver stone honoring “Mary and Robert Schindler, loving parents of Terri Schiavo.”

Ave Maria is located in Southwest Florida, roughly 45 minutes from Naples on the west coast, and approximately 90 minutes east from Miami/Fort Lauderdale. Ave Maria University was founded by Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza, as an orthodox Catholic university.