Thunderbird to break ground on World War II airfield tower restoration

October 30, 2009

Thunderbird School of Global Management will break ground 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, on the restoration of a historic airfield control tower that helped American, British and Chinese pilots train during World War II. Construction will begin shortly afterward on a project that will turn Thunderbird Tower into a social hub with state-of-the-art facilities for dining, shopping, playing and relaxing.

The Tower, originally built in 1941, closed in January 2006 because of structural damage. Thanks to a student-led grassroots campaign called “Save the Tower” that collected more than 500 contributions, the Tower will get a second life when renovation is completed in November 2011. Contributions include a $2 million pledge from Miriam Hinrichs in recognition of her husband, Thunderbird Trustee and 1965 Thunderbird graduate Merle A. Hinrichs.

Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs, City Councilman Steve Frate and WWII veteran Donald Marsey will be in attendance. Marsey trained at Thunderbird 1 Army Air Field in 1943. The ceremony also will feature the Luke Air Force Base Honor Guard presenting the colors during the national anthem. Tower and campus tours will be offered to the public starting at 3 p.m.

The renovation project will turn the Thunderbird Tower into the epicenter of the global campus. Once restored, the building will include a student union, the Thunderbird Pub, ThunderShop and an alumni/veterans gallery to display and preserve memorabilia that tells the story of Thunderbird’s rich history. Plans include sustainable building practices that will help the restored building qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

“The tower represents a significant icon of Thunderbird’s history,” says Hinrichs, chairman of Global Sources, a Hong Kong-based business-to-business media company. “The engagement by students, faculty, staff and alumni in this project is encouraging and exciting.”

Thunderbird was founded in 1946 following World War II by Lt. General Barton Kyle Yount, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Training Command. Yount became the school’s first president in 1946 when it received its charter to be the first school of business to focus exclusively on international management.

The school was founded as a nonprofit organization known as the American Institute for Foreign Trade. Classes began Oct. 1, 1946, and its first class graduated June 14, 1947. The remnants of that earlier time can still be seen on the modern campus in a number of landmark buildings, including the Tower, barracks and airplane hangars. The school has since graduated more than 38,000 students who live and work in more than 140 countries.

Members of the media are asked to contact Brian Camen at or 602-978-7922 to cover the event. The general public is asked to contact Leticia Barreto at or 602-978-7124 to RSVP.

To donate or for more information about the project, visit