Knowledge Network

Home / Knowledge Network / A History of Thunderbird Traditions

A History of Thunderbird Traditions

July 21, 2017

One of the things that makes Thunderbird School of Global Management so special is its unique origin as an Air Force training ground during World War 2. From the very beginning, Thunderbird has embraced cultural diversity--and many of the activities that took place in those early years still continue today and have become traditions now cemented in the fabric of what Thunderbird is.

The International Parade of Flags

Traditions such as Thunderbird's moving International Parade of Flags harken back to the very beginning when Thunderbird Field proudly displayed the flags of the various nations that had sent their WWII soldiers to Thunderbird to train. This tradition continues today on the two special occasions of the student’s lives: the opening ceremony during Foundations and the final commencement ceremony when students representing the different countries proudly carry their flags and share a few words about their country.

Flag Ceremony then


Flag Ceremony now


Gabrielle Gueye '17 speaks during the commencement Flag Ceremony in May 2017.

Regional Nights

Thunderbird's traditional Regional Nights are always a big hit on campus--with students, faculty, community members, alumni and prospective students. During Regional Nights, different cultures are celebrated, exposing students and the local community to the world beyond the United States. One of the highlights of Regional Nights is the Fashion Parade were students showcase the traditional or modern attires of the various nations.

Regional Night Fashion Parade then


Regional Night Fashion Parade now

Another traditional aspect of Regional Nights is Global Sounds, the school’s live band that began in 1996 and continues today with new students in each cohort. Global Sounds always features students from different cultures who come together to perform and entertain their fellow students with current and traditional songs.

The 2017 Cohort's Global Sounds band

Das Tor

Another tradition at Thunderbird is Das Tor, the school’s student-run independent newspaper. Started in 1970 by T-bird Bob Marabito, Das Tor came about when the then-student body president spoke about needing a school newspaper and asked Bob to organize one. Thus Das Tor was born, named in memory of President John F. Kennedy and America’s Berlin Brigade. Over the years, the format may have changed, but the spirit continues with world-class reporting by students from all over the world using the space to tell their stories.

Das Tor Fall 2016

Recent Das Tor editorial staff

Thunderbird Rugby Club

One important tradition that resonates strongly with current students and alumni is the Thunderbird Rugby Football Club, founded in 1976. It is a platform for many students and alumni to highlight not just their prowess on the field but leadership skills and the love of giving back to the community. Every year, the "Old Boys" team of Thunderbird alumni Rugby players challenge the current Rugby team to a game--and the fun-filled competition always draws a crowd.

The Thunderbird Rugby Football Club then


The 31st Annual Rugby Alumni Reunion in 2015

Balloon Classic

While not all of Thunderbird's treasured traditions have survived, they were a testament of the time and had so much impact on the lives of students and faculty privileged to be there. One tradition that was spectacular and gave Thunderbird prominence in the minds of the community was The Thunderbird Balloon Classic founded in 1975 by The Friends of Thunderbird (FOT) as an endowed scholarship, awarded strictly based on needs of the students. From the very beginning it attracted a large crowd, with the first race attracting 19 balloonist and more than 3,000 spectators that raised $1,500. The race was another opportunity for the school to share the diverse cultures with spectators, and there were student-sponsored activities that included international food booths and talent shows. Eventually due to vast number of balloonists and spectators that attended, the event changed names twice (to Thunderbird Classic 100 Balloon Race and then Thunderbird Balloon and Air Classic) and moved several times, from Thunderbird to the Glendale Airport, then to Scottsdale and then back to Glendale where it finally ceased in 2006.

The Thunderbird Balloon Classic originally held on the campus grounds

A School of Traditions

One thing is certain: At Thunderbird, people will always be committed to promoting diversity and giving back to society and the traditions (both those that are still in motion and those that are retired) keep inspiring people to have a global mindset as they go on to become leaders in the different spheres of society.

“Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse." --Winston Churchill

Get Global Insight in Your Inbox

Join our mailing list