Event unveiling the F. Francis and Dionne Najafi Thunderbird Global Headquarters is part of week of events marking school's 75th anniversary
The Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University unveiled its new headquarters' name Friday night: the F. Francis and Dionne Najafi Thunderbird Global Headquarters.
With klieg lights, fireworks, food trucks and live music on streets closed to traffic, the event was as much a festival as a grand opening for the building in downtown Phoenix.
The building is named after Phoenix philanthropists Francis and Dionne Najafi, who recently bequeathed an historic $25 million donation to the school, with the goal of educating 100 million worldwide learners by 2030.
Alumni from across the globe on Friday enjoyed food and drink and watched flamenco performances before the program kicked off with Thunderbird’s time-honored tradition of the international parade of flags, 58 in all, each representing a current student’s home country. The grand opening topped off a week of festivities that included master classes on a range of topics from cryptocurrencies to space leadership; a golf tournament; and regional celebrations of food, music, dancing and more.
“We have come a long way in the last four years,” Thunderbird Director General and Dean Sanjeev Khagram said Friday evening. “Today we are celebrating three amazing accomplishments.”
It was the school’s 75th anniversary, and it also marked four years since it joined ASU. Opening the state-of-the-art $67 million building at First and Polk streets downtown less than three years after breaking ground was the third accomplishment.
Khagram quoted Amelia Earhart: “The most difficult thing is the decision to act; the rest is just tenacity.”
“The future is incredibly bright,” he said. “Let’s look ahead to the next 75 years.”
Moore Ruble Yudell and Jones Studio, the architects of the new global headquarters for Thunderbird, have labeled the structure the "most technologically advanced building of any leadership, management or business school in the world.” Students can learn a new language in its immersive virtual reality language lab, visualize and interpret data using artificial intelligence, and connect with the greater global community using the latest in immersive and virtual communications found throughout the building.
Spanning 110,000 square feet — spread over five floors — the building features state-of-the-art flexible classrooms, 1,600 square feet of displays, regional heritage lounges featuring art donated from alumni representing a variety of artifacts from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe, and much more.
Thunderbird will be a key partner in introducing Phoenix to the world, said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. The city invested $13.5 million in the new headquarters.
“This is a transformational day for the city of Phoenix,” Gallego said. “The mythical thunderbird is rising.”
Thunderbird was founded in 1946 by an Army colonel who felt that the United States was "notoriously short of personnel trained for foreign trade."
ASU President Michael Crow cited those origins and how they relate to the world in 2022.
“Thunderbird emerged to be a place where leaders might come together from around the world to figure out how they might interact with each other and build our species forward without conflict, without fighting, without death and the acquisition of land or the movement into a country just because you think you can do it,” Crow said.
Video by ASU Media Relations Visual Communications
The school was born of a global conflict that ended with the use of nuclear weapons, he said.
“That can never happen again,” Crow said. “People that think that way cannot lead nations.”
Thunderbird stands for free trade, rule of law and democracy, he said.
A hangar at Thunderbird Field No. 1 in Glendale, Arizona, on the site of what would become the original Thunderbird School.Photo by Wally Besecker, 1942
The Thunderbird School in Glendale in 2015.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and President Michael Crow unveil a sign at the Thunderbird School of Global Management's groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 7, 2019.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News
The first-floor rotunda at the new downtown Phoenix home of the Thunderbird School of Global Management includes digital displays and a digital globe, representing alumni and students from around the world.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News
Clockwise from left: Master of Global Management students Julio Cabrera (Dominican Republic), Danae Bell (U.S.), Defa He (China), Uswa Ahmed (Pakistan) and Lilian Taruvinga (Zimbabwe) work on one of six collaborative touch tables in the Sandbox Classroom at the new Thunderbird School of Global Management building on Tuesday.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News
A closeup of the touch table, where Masters of Global Management students Defa He of China (left) and Danae Bell, of the U.S. write in Chinese.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News
Clockwise from left: Master of Global Management students Danae Bell, Lilian Taruvinga and Uswa Ahmed share some downtime in the Thunderbird Pub. The new pub pays homage to the original pub on the Glendale campus, which was a popular spot for Thunderbird students and alumni to gather.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News
The new headquarters for the Thunderbird School of Global Management in downtown Phoenix.Photo by Thunderbird School of Global Management
The Global Night Celebration, which took place immediately following the grand opening ceremony, feature dmusic, art, food and fun from around the world, celebrating the school’s global legacy.Photo by Brandon Sullivan
The Friday evening celebration featured lights, food trucks and live music on streets closed to traffic on ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus.Photo by Brandon Sullivan
Top photo: Fireworks go off during the Thunderbird School of Global Management's grand opening and naming event on Friday, April 8. Photo by Brandon Sullivan
Nicole Almond Anderson contributed to this report.