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Thunderbird School names its new downtown Phoenix headquarters in grand opening

The F. Francis & Dionne Najafi Thunderbird Global Headquarters was named after the two alumni who donated $25 million to the school in January


The Thunderbird building in downtown Phoenix is lit up on Wednesday, April 6, 2022 as part of the school's Grand Opening and 75th Anniversary Global Reunion.

The Thunderbird School of Global Management held the grand opening of its new headquarters on the Downtown Phoenix campus on Friday, where the building received its official name: The F. Francis & Dionne Najafi Thunderbird Global Headquarters.

Thunderbird alumni Francis and Dionne Najafi, who had the building named in their honor, donated $25 million to the school in January to start the 100 Million Learners Initiative, which aims to educate 100 million people through Thunderbird by 2030.

Select classes through the initiative, whose cost will be covered by scholarships and held online, also became available for registration on Friday.

“Welcome to Thunderbird 4.0,” Francis Najafi said. “Dion and I are grateful for this partnership to deliver a global educational mission of inclusivity and access to quality education.”

Over 2,500 people attended the opening, according to a press release. The event commenced with a Thunderbird tradition started in 1977: A parade of flags from 58 different countries representing where current students are located.

“The global alumni that we have is special," said Larry Penley, Arizona Board of Regents treasurer and former president of the Thunderbird School. "The students who you saw in the flags are the same kinds of students that we've seen for 75 years. This school though, in addition to those alumni and those students, continues to depend upon its relationships with the community.”

The building had been under construction in downtown Phoenix since Thunderbird broke ground in October 2019. The $67 million building has five floors containing four 60-seat classrooms, five 40-seat classrooms, seven group study rooms and 11 conference rooms to total 111,000 square feet. The school began holding classes for students inside the building when it opened its doors last fall.

“I was so proud to be here when we broke ground and looked at the amazing renderings, but it’s better looking than I even dreamed,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said at the event.

READ MORE: Thunderbird School opens headquarters on ASU Downtown Phoenix campus

Thunderbird's goal for its 100 Million Learners Initiative is to have 70% of the learners be women, something particularly inspiring to Gallego, who said voting to financially partner with Thunderbird will be one of her proudest decisions as mayor.

ASU acquired Thunderbird in 2014 while the school's enrollment and funds were steadily declining. In his speech, President Michael Crow said that “(ASU is) all in" on Thunderbird's success and added, “Thunderbird has just gotten started."

Hiroshi Hamada, an alumnus of the Thunderbird School who also co-chairs its Global Alumni Network Advisory Council, said the building represents a "growing network of centers of excellence around the world."

“This is the beginning of an exciting future for everyone associated with this wonderful school," Hamada said. "It is on time to ensure Thunderbird’s future for students, for an extended community and for a world that needs Thunderbird now, more than ever.” 

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Caera Learmonth

Caera Learmonth is a full-time reporter for the Community and Culture desk. She was previously the Executive Editor of her high school newspaper and has taken journalism programs at the School of the New York Times and University of Southern California. 

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