TIAA Member Announcement - November 3, 2018

Published Friday, November 16, 2018
by Doug Deardorf, '84 TIAA Board Chairman

November 3, 2018


Your trust, membership and commitment in TIAA has been most appreciated by the TIAA Board of Directors. It has been our endorsement to build and manage a professional and independent Alumni Association for Thunderbird. Today though, it is with disappointment and regret that I share with you that the TIAA Board of Directors have voted to suspend TIAA’s operations.


Please allow me to explain.


On July 1, 2018, Dr. Sanjeev Khagram, Dean and Director-General, succeeded Dr. Allen Morrison at Thunderbird.  As TIAA has done for five years, beginning with Dr. Morrison, we have actively engaged in dialogue with Dr. Khagram offering our support and expressing our thoughts as how best to serve the Thunderbird Alumni. To this end, TIAA provided Thunderbird a proposal to assume more responsibility for Alumni Relations with the strong view that a more autonomous Alumni Association would be both good for the school and the alumni. Our proposal was rejected.


This past week on the 29th and 30th of October, the Thunderbird Leadership Council (TLC) meeting was held in Phoenix. Merle Hinrich and I are both members of the TLC. We attended the meeting and also represented TIAA. The primary focus of the meeting was to promote alumni unity. Everyone attending the TLC meeting including Merle and I, agreed that unity of the alumni is extremely important, if not critical, given the changes and challenges still faced by Thunderbird.


However, during the course of the meeting, it was made clear by the other attendees and the administration, that while TIAA filled a “void” during the sale of Thunderbird, it is no longer needed and in fact is a distraction contributing to alumni disunity. We expressed this is quite contrary to TIAA’s view and remain convinced that an autonomous Alumni Association is the preferred solution to provide stability for alumni and to benefit the school.


While we, as representatives of TIAA, do not believe TIAA is a source of alumni bifurcation, we do not wish to stand in the way nor put in jeopardy Thunderbird’s future success.


Therefore, in the interest of the school, and to avoid any ongoing acrimony, accusations or excuses, the TIAA Board of Directors have elected to discontinue TIAA operations. Individual members of TIAA are encouraged to individually engage with Thunderbird as they see fit.


TIAA’s dedication is to our fellow alumni. We have expressed this in a multitude of ways since our founding in 2013. Here are but a few examples of what TIAA has been able to achieve with your dedicated support.

  • We stopped the takeover of Thunderbird by the For-Profit group, Laureate.
  • We supported the absorption of Thunderbird into the ASU Knowledge Enterprise, in fact being the only initial supporting group.
  • Created a Scholars Program, offering 10 awards each year of $10,000 per award to entice new enrollment at Thunderbird. A total of 27 Scholars have participated over three years.
  • We hosted Flagship TIAA conferences around the world from Hungary to Mexico City and New York to Nanjing, each filled with engaging presentations by cutting edge speakers such as General Michael Hayden, Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Former US-China Ambassador Sandy Randt and the Minister of Finance of Malaysia among many others. Our most recent conference, which we invited Thunderbird and ASU to co-host with TIAA, was held in Penang and was our most well attended.
  • We operated an office of dedicated staff, most of whom have been alumni.
  • We took positions on critical school related issues such as removal of language and the GMAT, both of which have been added back into the requirements of Thunderbird.

We continue to believe that the alumni have a critical role to play in the future of Thunderbird. And it is our belief that a semi-autonomous structure would give the most accurate, heart-felt advice to the administration while offering the highest degree of consistent support and accountability to the alumni. Having said this, we wish Dr. Khagram, Thunderbird and ASU, only the best as they continue to develop the future of Thunderbird, in creating new programs, building the new building, and leading the alumni.


In executing on this decision, we realize there are many details yet to work out.  There will be follow-on correspondence from us on the administrative issues associated with the winding down of TIAA.


We are incredibly proud of the alumni and particularly what we have been able to achieve together through TIAA.  Without you as a dedicated member of TIAA, we would not have been able to succeed in all the achievements as we have. I know I speak for current and past Board members and our management team in saying it has been an honor serving TIAA and in serving Thunderbird Alumni and Thunderbird through TIAA.  We thank you for your time, your treasure, and your confidence in TIAA.



Doug Deardorf ‘84

Chairman of the Board

Thunderbird Independent Alumni Association


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