Important Update from Your Thunderbird Board of Trustees

In order to keep our students, global alumni network, faculty, staff and friends informed, the board would like to provide an update since our recent meeting in San Francisco with the Thunderbird Independent Alumni Association (TIAA).  

We willingly accepted the invitation to meet face to face without conditions because we believe in the value of dialogue.  That is why we have established multiple teams, including our Alumni Council of Thunderbird (ACT), all of which have willingly signed NDAs so that they could advise the board as fully informed participants.  Our expectation in our meeting with TIAA was to have constructive dialogue, hear details of their offer and answers to our questions and begin to find acceptable alignment for moving forward in a positive direction for the school.  

 Our progress toward these goals has been hindered by continued absence of important information and certain actions taken by the TIAA only days after our initial meeting and joint statement.

  • As of today, no details have been shared by TIAA about their offer and none of our questions have been answered, including specifics about the “tens of millions of dollars” that the TIAA had announced to the press.  More than a month ago, we provided specific questions about the TIAA offer and these were acknowledged as important and relevant but would be addressed in our meeting.  This didn’t happen.

  • TIAA’s latest list of demands (see below) includes taking control of the board and now also includes a similar position on all future boards that might occur with any potential partner institutions.  According to TIAA, these demands are a condition for further discussion on their involvement, support for, or endorsement of a strategic partner.

  • No plans for the future of the school have been shared by TIAA other than to take control and determine a plan later on.

  • We offered to share confidential information in order to discuss their reaction to possible solutions. Our joint release following the meeting reflected our agreement that Thunderbird and TIAA would sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).  Despite repeated attempts by Thunderbird, the deadline for signing the NDA has now passed.

  • In an email from TIAA to our board chair three days ago, a new demand was added.  TIAA refuses to agree to an NDA unless their demands regarding Board changes are met.

  • Since our meeting last Saturday and without informing us, TIAA directors have been making direct contact with various Thunderbird constituents, including faculty and potential partners, to promote their position and perhaps divide the community.

In an effort to set the record straight and correct any mistruths being promoted by those seeking to gain control of this institution, the Thunderbird School of Global Management will continue to move forward in our discussions with potential partners.  Each potential partner has been consulted regarding the limited facts available about the TIAA’s offer and demands.  Without exception, they were regarded as unacceptable.

We do not regret reaching out to TIAA in an effort to find a path forward.  It was the right thing to do. But we now question whether TIAA’s motivations are in the best interests of the school or perhaps serve some other purpose.  While we hoped to be in a more favorable position with TIAA by this point, we are proceeding forward in our discussions with potential partners, regardless of any future actions to harm that process.  Our objectives and criteria have not changed for raising Thunderbird’s competitiveness in the changing business education market.  Any future partnership must:

  • Support Thunderbird’s global mission
  • Preserve the Thunderbird brand
  • Provide for the School’s long term sustainability

We are steadfast in meeting these objectives and will let nothing stand in the way.


The Thunderbird Board of Trustees


TIAA Restructuring Requirements of the Thunderbird Board of Trustees (May 1 2014)


  1. TIAA will fill four (4) voting seats on the Board of Trustees. There will always be four TIAA Board members on the Thunderbird Board of Trustees.  These four TIAA representatives will also sit on the Executive Committee.
  2. Immediately implement 3+3 year term limits for both new and old trustees. Trustees having currently served more than six (6) years must reapply under revised terms.
  3. All future Trustee appointments will be Thunderbird alumni, in good standing.
  4. All Thunderbird Board members will be responsible to individually give or get $25,000 per year for the school. This must be of cash contributions only during the same fiscal year. If this requirement is not met it will cause immediate removal of the member from the Board.
  5. The Thunderbird Board will be restricted to no more than twenty (20) members and no fewer than the current requirement in the Thunderbird Board of Trustee’s bylaws of nine (9) members. 
  6. All Thunderbird Board members will be required to be physically present at a minimum of 50% of all annual meetings. If this requirement is not met it will cause immediate removal of the member from the Board.
  7. Required geographical Board diversity.  A minimum of one seat from each of the following regions must be maintained by a resident living in the region.  These seats will remain open should they not be filled by the regional resident.  The regions are Asia, Europe, Middle East & Africa, South America, and North America (Canada, Mexico and United States).
  8. A TIAA Board of Trustee member will chair the nominating and governance committee of the Thunderbird Board of Trustees. 
  9. All the terms listed above, that include TIAA’s status and representation on the Board of Trustees, will be binding prior to and carried forward (grandfathered) with any partnership, if and when a prospective partner is selected.