Thunderbird reopens historic WWII tower after student-led initiative

November 11, 2011

2,000 guests, veterans and local dignitaries celebrate opening with flyover, fireworks and lavish party

(GLENDALE, Ariz.) November 11, 2011 —With a historic party timed to coincide with Veterans Day and 11-11-11, Thunderbird School of Global Management will reopen its circa-1941 aircraft control tower tonight after an extensive renovation. The landmark at heart of Thunderbird’s campus in Glendale had fallen into disrepair until 2007, when three students began a fundraising effort to restore the building to its former glory. Construction began in October 2009 and to date more than 1,400 donors have stepped up to contribute to the project.

Festivities will begin at 4 p.m. with the Luke Air Force Base Honor Guard presenting the colors during the national anthem, followed by a flyover of historic aircraft. The flyover will include six Boeing-Stearman biplanes — the same that American, British and Chinese pilots used for training at Thunderbird Army Air Field 1 in the 1940s. Following the flyover, international Thunderbird students will hold a flag ceremony and the tower’s main benefactor, Merle A. Hinrichs, will make a presentation. Hinrichs, a class of 1965 Thunderbird alumnus and a Trustee of the school, is chairman of Global Sources, a Hong Kong-based business-to-business media company. He and his wife, Miriam, made a $2 million pledge to the renovation project.

“The tower represents a significant icon of Thunderbird’s history,” said Hinrichs said at the Tower’s groundbreaking. “The engagement by students, faculty, staff and alumni in this project is encouraging and exciting.”

After the ceremony, more than 2,000 Thunderbird alumni, friends, trustees, donors and members of the community will enjoy dinner, drinks and entertainment until 11 p.m., when the night will conclude with an 11-minute firework ceremony.

“This will be the largest event in Thunderbird’s history,” said Will Counts, one of the original three student leaders of the Tower Restoration who led the project to its completion. “This event is something that’s going to bring everyone from Thunderbird back together again.” Alumni from the Class of 1953 onward have registered to participate.

The Tower is at the heart of the Thunderbird campus and its past is integral to Thunderbird’s original “global perspective.” Since the Air Field transitioned to a school in 1946, the Tower has housed administration and faculty offices, a language learning center, a student lounge, the Tower Cafe, and offices for Thunderbird institutions such as the Thunderbird Student Government and Das Tor, the school newspaper. For 60 years, the Tower was the icon of the school grounds and the center of the Thunderbird community. In January 2006, the Tower closed due to structural issues and has been off-limits to students.

The renovated Tower will house the relocated Thunderbird Pub, the Alumni and Veterans Gallery, student common area and ThunderShop.