Thunderbird Global Council analyzes, endorses planned alliance

Alumni support for Thunderbird’s planned strategic alliance with Laureate Education, Inc., swelled Oct. 1-2, 2013, during the annual gathering of the Thunderbird Global Council, a volunteer advisory group comprised mostly of alumni business leaders from around the world. Several council members arrived on campus with misgivings about the school’s growth plans, but most doubts faded after two days of face-to-face interaction with senior leaders from Thunderbird and Laureate.

“I was extremely skeptical, if not to say negative,” said Thunderbird Global Council member John Donnelly ’70. “But I walk away here very comfortable seeing that the Laureate transaction is a very good transaction for Thunderbird that gives us breathing room and an opportunity to remain and thrive.”

By the end of the meeting, Donnelly and other TGC Steering Committee members issued a statement of support on behalf of the full council. “Moving forward, the TGC is excited and galvanized around the positives that this partnership will bring Thunderbird and especially to our students,” the statement reads, in part.

Ekaterina Walter ’08, one of 13 Thunderbird alumni added to the council at the start of the two-day event, said she is pleased to see Thunderbird taking bold action in a way that will allow the school to expand its global footprint without sacrificing its independence or academic control. “Now is the right time to decide whether you want to go bold or you want to stay where you are comfortable,” she said.

Overall, 53 of 105 council members attended the event from as far away as Hong Kong and as near as Scottsdale, Arizona. Among those who came, support for the alliance appeared unanimous by the end of the week. Panelists and presenters included Thunderbird President Larry Edward Penley, Ph.D., Thunderbird Trustee Sam Garvin ’88, Chairman of the Thunderbird Board of Trustees Ann Inverson, Laureate Chairman and CEO Douglas Becker, and Laureate Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives David Graves.

Between sessions, council members also met with Thunderbird students to provide one-on-one career coaching. The outreach was part of a broader initiative launched in 2012 to enrich the student experience and provide support for students seeking jobs and internships.

Support spanning six decades

Statements from Oct. 2, 2013, following two days of informational meetings, panel discussions and breakout sessions on Thunderbird’s growth plans:

“The planned alliance will give the school the confidence and the stability it needs to continue to grow amidst increasing competition and new technology.”
Larry Mellinger ’68, Thunderbird Global Council (United States)

“I was extremely skeptical, if not to say negative. But I walk away here very comfortable seeing that the Laureate transaction is a very good transaction for Thunderbird that gives us breathing room and an opportunity to remain and thrive.”
John Donnelly ’70, Thunderbird Global Council (Mexico)

“The planned alliance is really a tremendous springboard for Thunderbird strategically as well as financially. … I am very comfortable that the Board of Trustees and the administration has done a great job to ensure that Thunderbird stays Thunderbird.”
Dale Kramer ’77, Thunderbird Global Council (United States)

“I am really excited about the growth plans. We are going to be able to do things we have never been able to do before with a partner that really is sensitive to the Thunderbird mission and values.”
John Cook ’79, Thunderbird Global Council (Switzerland)

“My first impression when I heard about the deal was skepticism about the protection of our brand. What I realized when I went into the details and understood the transaction, is that the brand is protected very well.”
Adel Labib ’83, Thunderbird Global Council (Switzerland)

“Having been here on campus and spending two days seeing both others and myself drilling down into the strategy, the deal, and every aspect of where the school is going, I have become very convinced that this is a very great opportunity for Thunderbird to grow.”
Bart Kohnhorst ’83, Thunderbird Global Council (United States)

“I am really pleased that the Board is proactively taking the opportunity to find a strategic partner — not only one that has financial assets to make us stable, but they’re also bringing strategic assets.”
Michelle Senecal de Fonseca ’87, Thunderbird Global Council (United Kingdom)

“I came here not really knowing what the deal was about. After listening, probing and asking the questions about what it is, I have a much better sense about what is going on, and I think it is a bold move. We need to move forward, and it is the best partner for us to have to move into the future.”
Alexander de Faria e Castro ’90, Thunderbird Global Council (Germany and United States)

“I came here unsure as to what the future held for Thunderbird, and I was really pleased to hear about our opportunities ahead, and I am really excited about the opportunities for us to grow.”
Heather Leonard Wise ’94, Thunderbird Global Council (United States)

“Now is the right time to decide whether you want to go bold or you want to stay where you are comfortable. Stepping outside the box and partnering with somebody like Laureate will help lead us into that next bold move.”
Ekaterina Walter ’08, Thunderbird Global Council (United States)

“We’ve always been innovative, and right now I think this is a perfect time for us to grow. The partnership with Laureate really gives us an opportunity to innovate. It gives us an opportunity to leap forward and really grow the Thunderbird brand on our terms.”
Shaun Smithson ’08, Thunderbird Global Council (United States)

“I like the idea of more networks abroad with more programs and more education abroad.”
Christine Moore ’14, Thunderbird student (United States)

“I am really encouraged with the plans going forward. In fact, there are a lot of current students who are a little bit jealous of the incoming students.”
Patrick Mah ’14, Thunderbird student (Canada)



Thunderbird Global Council history

The Thunderbird Global Council dates to 1983, when the school created the World Business Advisory Council for the purpose of receiving input from international business executives on various subjects such as business curriculum, hiring trends and academic standards. In 1997 the decision was made to change the name to the Thunderbird Global Council and transform the group into an active support system, helping the school to achieve key goals.