The mythical Greek Phoenix and the mythical Anasazi Thunderbird are powerful symbols—the first representing new life arising from the ashes of its predecessor and the second, with its variety of interpretations, often representing the symbol for the extraordinary human invention of flying. Located in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, Arizona, on the original Thunderbird Field No. 1 airfield from WWII, Thunderbird School of Global Management is a combination of the two heralded birds: a school raised from the soil of the military air base which has never lost its focus on helping students soar, literally and figuratively.

The architect of Thunderbird Field, the artist Millard Sheets, drew inspiration from the Native American Thunderbird, designing the campus grounds to reflect its powerful shape with the air control tower forming the head of the bird, the administration buildings and barracks its body, the hangers its wings and the gardens its feathered tail. One of the Sheets’ murals depicting the Thunderbird Kachina still exists today in the former office of the President in Founder's Hall. Sheets painted the mural in 1941, during airfield construction.

Along with Sheets’ mural, other remnants of the original Thunderbird Field landmarks are still alive and well on the Thunderbird campus.

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The Tower building epitomizes the nerve center of both Thunderbird Field No. 1 and Thunderbird School of Global Management, now a unit of the Arizona State University Knowledge Enterprise.

 

In its heyday, the Tower Building served as the flight control center. When the airfield transitioned into an institution of higher learning, the Tower building was initially occupied by various departments such as Academic Affairs and the Career Management Center. As new administration buildings were built in the early ‘90s, the Tower became a haven for student activities.

From the sky, the Tower building resembles an airplane. While looking from its windows now presents a breathtaking view of beautifully sculpted gardens, it’s not hard to get a sense of the view the air traffic controllers witnessed as they guided hundreds of planes on and off the runways.

Today, the Tower houses the Thunderbird Pub, a gift shop, conference rooms, and community kitchen open to students. Most alumni and students consider it the heart of the campus.

 

 Airplane Hangars

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Thunderbird Field No. 1 originally housed four hangars. These served as garages, as well as maintenance areas, for the planes. The original logo of the black and red Thunderbird was painted prominently on the roof of each of the two hangars that immediately flanked the Tower building. The heads of the Thunderbirds faced inwards toward the Tower and were very evident from the air.

 

For the school, the hangars have served as graduation venues, home to the original Thunderbird Pub, and as indoor parking. Over the years, two of the hangars were demolished to make way for additional student parking spaces and the Thunderbird Commons, the on-campus cafeteria. In 1981, the parking lot hangar was converted into an auditorium, used for Thunderbird’s famous opening ceremonies (including its historic Parade of International Flags), events, examinations and Regional Nights. This hangar was completely renovated in 2011 due to structural issues.

 

The other remaining hangar still serves as the central supply base of the school. The school post office and the former location of the bookstore which is now the Thunderbird Archives.

The Barracks

The original barracks that housed international pilots from more than three countries now serve as both dorm rooms and classrooms for today’s students. The original design of the campus—as an outline of the mythical Thunderbird—still remains.

The military history of Thunderbird is never far from the mind or from the thought on campus, now bustling with management students from around the world like it once did with student pilots. Established with the credo that “borders frequented by trade seldom need soldiers,” Thunderbird proudly continues the airfield's original mission—to welcome learners from around the world so that, by learning together, we might create a more connected and cooperative global community.