ASU and ACU switch land for the benefit of both universities

Arizona Christian University to move into old Thunderbird Campus in Glendale as Thunderbird moves downtown

Students and faculty of the Thunderbird School of Global Management experienced a major transformation after being acquired by ASU in 2017. Now, they say goodbye to their original campus forever.

When the Thunderbird school moved to the Downtown Phoenix campus, ASU had surplus land in Glendale. At the same time, the Arizona Christian University needed room to expand out of its Phoenix campus, so the two universities arranged an exchange of land.

Read more: ASU announces the Thunderbird School of Global Management will move to the Downtown Phoenix campus

An ASU spokesperson said that the ACU has taken ownership of Thunderbird's land in Glendale while Thunderbird, as a unit of ASU, has taken ownership of the ACU land at Cactus and 26th street.

In December 2017, Thunderbird moved into a temporary campus at the Arizona Center while it awaited its new building next to the Beus Center for Law and Society, which hosts the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

Mary Teagarden, associate dean of faculty and administration and a professor of global strategy, has been at Thunderbird since the early 1990s.

“My father was a flight instructor there, and my son is a graduate, and I've taught there forever," Teagarden said. "So, I do have ties to the campus, but I'm not sentimental about it having been there as long as I was."

Teagarden said her father was around for the building of the facilities.

“Many of our buildings were built prior to World War II, and they were put up at that time, according to my daddy, as temporary buildings that were only going to be there for the war and the intention was to tear down after that,” Teagarden said. “That never happened."

Shannon Walker, assistant university archivist who curates the Thunderbird historical collections, said via email the Thunderbird campus was given to the founders at a 100 percent discount from the Army, despite a valuation of $407,000. However, it was required to remain an educational institution. That obligation to be used for education remains to this day.

This is one of the reasons that ASU wanted to trade land with ACU, so that ASU has the option to sell the new land if it ever wants to in the future. The new money, if the land is sold, can then go to Thunderbird, which is currently in the Arizona Center until its new building is built.

Mary Sully de Luque, associate professor of global leadership, has been teaching at the Thunderbird campus for 15 years.

“We’re happy to be downtown because there’s really a lot going on down here,” Sully de Luque said. “It’s exciting for us. We are very close to lots of other schools in the ASU system."

Sully de Luque said the maintaining of the Thunderbird school’s past has always been key.

“They hired an archivist full time to preserve all the historical artifacts,” she said. “We have so much rich history in that respect."

The original Thunderbird campus even had a historical and functional pub, which will return in the new building. Despite the rich history, Teagarden found the old campus to be inadequate.

“There were major problems with the facilities and the cost to upgrade them and build modern facilities was just extravagant,” Teagarden said. “The location wasn’t good for our students who were in a professional school. It was a good resort-like environment, but it wasn't a good professional environment, and so I was excited to move downtown.”

Teagarden said that in terms of business near the old campus, across the street there was only a strip mall where everything was out of business, except for a pizza place.

Teagarden said she sees the move as exceptionally positive. 

“I know that it was a comparable valuation although the acreage is different, and I hate to say it, but I think we got the better end of the stick,” Teagarden said. “I think the value of the property at Cactus (Road) is probably more sell-able than where we were, and I'm ecstatic that it's going to another school, and it sounds like they will take very good care of the property.”

Preethika Sainam, assistant professor of global marketing at Thunderbird School of Global Management, experienced both campuses and said she finds that the passing of the land is the best possible outcome.

“I'm glad that the old campus remains in the hands of an Arizona-based educational institution because the Glendale campus was historic," Sainam said. "It represented many important things about Thunderbird’s founding and the history and its rich, rich past.”

She also said this has enabled the Thunderbird school in its new location to “focus on the future without losing sight of the past.”

Read more: New dean of ASU's Thunderbird School aims to make ASU more global

Teagarden emphasized that the trade and the move downtown will build a stronger future for Thunderbird.

“Some people are saying that Thunderbird has died," Teagarden said. "I think the opposite is true."

Correction: A previous version of this article misinterpreted the original purchase of the Thunderbird campus. The campus was not purchased for $1, but instead given at 100 percent discount. The article has been updated to reflect this change. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @Ethan_G45 on Twitter.

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