Das Tor’s Origins

Courtesy: http://www.city-data.com/
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Ever wondered about Das Tor’s birth? Why the name Das Tor? What Thunderbird was like in the “good ‘ol days?” We wondered as well. So when Das Tor founder Robert Marabito reached out to us, we were able to delve into the depths of its origins and hear its tale from none other than the very first editor of Das Tor! Lets take a walk down Thunderbird’s memory lane…

By Robert Marabito

Courtesy: www.thunderbird.edu
Courtesy: www.thunderbird.edu

Hello student body and alumni.  Here is Robert Marabito, former student at Thunderbird Graduate School and, believe it or not, our school’s first “Das Tor” editor.  Your school newspaper.   No kidding,  really!  We’re going back to the year 1970 when the student body was made up of some 150 male students and 6 female.  Because of the shortage of women on campus we males had to learn quick the principles of good business management… and behavior.  But that’s another story.

Back in those days, Thunderbird Grad School was surrounded by cotton fields that ran to the horizon.  Only one road hooked T-Bird to Phoenix and western civilization, otherwise, isolation.   The campus was an old army air force base with hangers and army barracks dating back to World War II.  The environment: one swimming pool, a chapel, an admin building, and the barracks with shoe box size rooms, two or three guys to a room.  Unlike your typical on campus dorms, here two rooms shared one toilet and a shower.  In the mornings with three to four students to a room, we T-birders had to stand in line to brush teeth.  And the class rooms?  Though small, they could seat 12 well.

What was the student body like back then?  It was made up mostly of students with life’s rough and tumble experience: Vietnam veterans, businessmen who wanted to do something more than shine the boss’s shoes, career hungry guys looking to climb the international corporate latter.

One was a Hollywood camera man who didn’t see a future  filming movie stars.   Another T-Birder was a Cuban who had fought against Castro at the Bay of Pigs invasion.  He was captured and bought off by the Kennedy Administration.  Now, a free man, he applied to Thunderbird to improve his Latin America career options.  No more guns!  His story was in a Das Tor editorial.

Another T-Birder was a multi-millionaire who drag raced his Triump on the airfield in competition with the P-40s.  He won all the races.  At T-Bird we all carried backgrounds.

Back then that was some of our student body, but what I want to write about is not the student body but where our school newspaper,

Courtesy: Thunderbird Archives
Courtesy: Thunderbird Archives

“Das Tor”, came from.  It had to do with President John Kennedy in 1963.

It was my first semester at Thunderbird.  My goal was to build a career in marketing with a major corporation.  I was pushing 30 at the time.   One day while walking across campus the president of the student body–sorry, I forgot his name–approached me and asked me if I could put together a school newspaper for T-Bird.  There was no real publication at the time.   Because I minored in journalism at Kent State University, I thought, “Why not!”

I had graduated from Kent State University in January of 1969.  That was 5 months before the Ohio National Guard gunned down several students in a Vietnam demonstration.  Those were the days of protest across the country.

The student body president wanted  a publication with headlines, articles and editorials.  But what to call our graduate school newspaper?  That was the question.   The T-Bird newspaper had to be something special; after all, we weren’t your typical grad school. Thunderbird was an international business school with an international student body, some from Asia, others from Latin America, Europe, Middle East and north and south of the Mason Dixon Line.  We were an international student body and proud of it.  But what to call the T-Bird newspaper?

Those many years ago, I walked out on to the old army airfield in the early evening contemplating the possibilities.   The moment was meditative.  It was then that I heard it, the roar of an air plane engine.  Was that the roar of a Spitfire?  An airforce P-40 engine?  In World War II, those were the army air force planes that took on the Japanese ‘Kamakatzi’ and the German ‘Luftwaffe’. Back then the P-40s were called fighters… ‘Dogfighters!’

I turned and looked up.  It was then that I saw it.  There in the distance was a double winged, single engine aircraft.  Isolated against the heavens it flew out over the expanse of cotton fields.  A crop duster.  It flew in from the cloudless sky spraying them, the vast cotton fields.  At low level its single engine grunted and roared, soared, dove and roared again.  Back and forth it flew, dusting the Arizona crops. It was than that it hit me, the name for our T-Bird publication. “Das Tor” i.e. The Gate!

Courtesy: http://www.city-data.com/
Courtesy: http://www.city-data.com/

Why Das Tor?  Because Thunderbird Graduate School of International Management was and is to this day a door, ‘Das Tor’,  a gate to the international business community world wide.  As an international business school Thunderbird connects the world.  It is the gate. ‘Das Tor!’ And where did the name come from?  It had to do with our President, John F. Kennedy.

The year was Nov 1963.  President Kennedy had just been gunned down.  The world was in shock and mourning.   To show their remorse the people of West Berlin, as well as all of Germany, put candles in the windows of their homes.  In Germany, a candle in the window was a tradition that went back to the War War II and I.  It meant: “Ein Sohn ist gefallen” (A son has fallen in battle). To the German people, President Kennedy was a son.  Hard to believe but true.  The night of his death, carrying  torches, Germans marched on the streets of West Berlin in mourning. Moved by the disaster of the moment, a few of us off-duty soldiers got together and sang “MY EYES HAVE SEEN THE GLORY”.

One of the soldiers of the army’s Berlin Brigade set up an organization.  It was given a German name,  ‘Das Tor’ aka  The Gate. The idea was to bring together American, British, and French servicemen and Germans–the Soviets too, if possible–to discuss the Cold War issues of the day, the issues that threatened peace, the issues that made Kennedy a target.  The organization was to be an open door, a ‘Das Tor’ to the international community.  Anyone could walk in, put an issue on the table to be discussed and debated.  Thus the name ‘Das Tor’, in memory of our President, John Kennedy.

Unfortunately the club survived only a few months.  Attendance to the meetings quickly thinned.  Eventually it broke up.  We American soldiers, the Brits and the French were all too busy soldiering in defence of West Berlin and world peace at the time.  Though in the backround, the name resurfaced nine years later as the title the Arizona Thunderbird Graduate School Newspaper.

Today, Thunderbird Graduate School of International Management is ‘The Gate’, an open door to the international business community world wide.  No Cold War.  No guns.  Thunderbird is a ‘Das Tor’.  It is an opportunity through education for the young men and women to spread those solid American business principles and values worldwide wherever we T-Birds live and work.  The door, ‘Das Tor’, is open.   Thank you President Kennedy.

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