ACADEMIC LIFE OF AN AIRFIELD
Were it not for two remodeled airplane hangars and a control tower in the middle of campus, it would be hard to recognize the American Graduate School of International Management as a former military airfield.Skip to next paragraph
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But during World War II, the school in suburban Phoenix was Thunderbird Field - an Army Air Force training facility. The field had been built originally as a civilian pilot flight school and a private field for California film stars who vacationed in Arizona.
When the war ended, the base was reconverted to civilian use - to retrain Army Air Force pilots for careers in international trade.
William Voris, an Arabic scholar who served as president of Thunderbird during the 1970s and '80s, says, "This is an exceptional facility, because it wasn't built for the military.
"The Hollywood founders - Jimmy Stewart, Leland Hayward, Henry Fonda, Cary Grant, and Hoagy Carmichael - believed in living well. That's why we have two swimming pools, and dormitories that don't look like barracks.
"During World War II, Thunderbird Field was known as 'The Country Club of the Air Corps.' "
Today, the school has 1,365 graduate students and 23,000 alumni all over the world. The students include a number of Ivy League graduates and former Peace Corps volunteers. They pursue courses in world business, international studies, and modern languages. Proficiency in a foreign language is one of the requirements for graduation.
While the campus has been steadily modernized - there was no air-conditioning until well after the war - all but two of the original Thunderbird Field buildings are still in use.
In March, the school opened a new administration building and moved the vice president for academic affairs from an office in the control tower. But the tower was preserved as a student lounge - a reminder of Thunderbird's many-sided history.