On Change and Grief

Photo by Daisy Jasmine

By Daisy Jasmine, Staff Writer


The coiling, Seussian palm trees seen from the window of every white-brick dorm room.

The Fish and the lone surviving swimming pool, which have born witness to endless revelry through the years.

The Jacuzzi fountain, sitting pristine outside of the sturdy, stocky Snell building, “watering hole” for students seeking support before and after so many panicked final exams and presentations.

The lecture halls, where the Thunderbird is given the tools they need to take on the world—and every student knows a seat or two in each room which, assigned seats or not, will always be “their” seat.

The IBIC, stretched unhurriedly across the corner of campus, together with the globe fountain a picturesque landscape worthy of any postcard—and on the inside, a powerhouse of growth for every Thunderbird, where students have holed up by themselves and congregated with groups to help one another reach new heights of understanding.

The Thunderbird Event Center, where the flags of the world resolutely stand watch as each nervous new class of Thunderbirds is hatched with the beginning of their Foundations, and each crosses that bittersweet threshold into the world with their graduation—and in between, the Regional Nights and Global Galas that see the happy homecoming of alumni and the fostering of that coveted Mystique.

The old barracks, untouched empty capsules of memories from the campus’ early years, and the nearby garden built so recently by the hard work of students, only to be left behind so soon.

The rugby pitch, where each year the tradition of Thunderbird’s favorite sport has been passed down and dedicated students have pushed through challenges and become stronger and learned to trust one another under pressure.

The Tower building, that hidden historic sanctum overlooking the campus, sitting quietly atop its equally iconic counterpart. The Pub, noisy and rowdy, itself alive with the imprint of decades of students celebrating, week after week, that they lived to see another Thursday night. Walls thick with signatures, a “yearbook” without compare. A patina of years of emotion, of forever-friendships being forged and tested and made strong.

-Daisy Jasmine


Last week, current students and yesteryear’s alumni alike woke up to the shocking announcement of a major change which impacts all of us—Thunderbird is being moved from our well-known and loved campus in Glendale to a purpose-built building at the Downtown Phoenix campus. In the days that have followed the announcement, uncertainty has been on the rise throughout the Thunderbird community as students have attempted to make sense of the sudden, drastic, impending change.

Reactions to the news have been widely varied. Some Thunderbirds, who have previously felt dissatisfied with the way things have been run in the years since the ASU acquisition, eagerly anticipate the move and feel that it will revitalize a school which has failed to adapt and aggregate in a rapidly-changing world. Some are angry and suspect ASU of valuing Thunderbird campus as nothing more than a convenient piece of land to be sold, or fearful that this development marks the beginning of an assimilation of the Thunderbird brand into ASU’s other business units. Many Thunderbirds are saddened to hear of the loss of the beloved campus which has been our home for decades.

Even for those who see many positive aspects to this development, the move out of Glendale marks a departure from a legacy 71 years running. Many alumni are feeling the end of their freedom to “come home” from their travels and see how the campus has changed and stayed the same since their graduation. At the same time, students who will graduate this May will never have that chance. It calls to mind the old all-too-true adage: “you can’t go home again.”

As a result of any major life change, it is entirely normal to experience a sense of loss and even grief. If you are grieving the campus departure, you might find yourself going through the “five stages of grief.” You may have difficulty accepting the reality of the impending shift in your life. You may wonder whether it could have been avoided or if somehow, someone could change it. There might be times when you find yourself angry and looking for someone to blame, or feeling heartbroken over the ending. And eventually, it will become easier to accept. However, grief is rarely so linear or neatly put into little boxes and tidied away—emotions don’t like to comply with tight schedules.

During this transitional period as Thunderbird prepares to move on to a new home, it is important that we remember to take care of ourselves and our fellow Thunderbirds. With controversy and emotions riding high on public forums such as the Thunderbird Mystique Facebook group, it can be forgotten that Thunderbird is first and foremost a strongly united community and that none of us, even those the least comfortable with the move, have to face this change alone.

Communicating with fellow Thunderbirds will help to see the news from a wide range of different perspectives, empathize and be there for one another, and make the transition easier for all of us. If you feel the need to step back from the issue and see it from the perspective of someone who isn’t personally attached to the matter, you may also want to express your thoughts and seek support from your family, other networks, and your religious or spiritual community if such things bring you comfort.

If you are hurting in the wake of the announcement, consider finding an outlet which will allow you to celebrate the place which has had such a profound impact on us. If you enjoy creative activities, writing, drawing, or taking photographs would be some excellent ways to document the beauty of campus. For example, this reporter plans to capture the iconic landmarks of campus in watercolor over the course of the coming semester. Also, spend time in your favorite parts of campus and form plenty of fond memories with your friends to look back on—let’s make the last semester of the Glendale campus the very best since General Yount established the school.

However, one important point should not be forgotten. While we may very well grieve the change and the loss of our old home, make no mistake—this is not a death. This is not a death, because Thunderbird never dies, and what truly makes Thunderbird so special goes well beyond the borders of our little slice of Glendale.

Last year, on certain weekend nights, strains of music could be heard echoing across campus from the Jam Room long after the Pub had closed for the evening. And just like that music, even long after Thunderbird’s original campus closes its doors, Thunderbird itself will carry on.

2 Comments

  1. Daisy, this is a lovely, bittersweet essay that captures the feeling of many in the Thunderbird family: students, alumni, staff, faculty, administration. Thank you for writing it.
    Suzy

  2. Thank you Daisy for your respect for the real heartfelt pain many feel and hope for the future. I too believe in Thunderbird..from the structures to the groundskeepers, to the sweet people in the commons to the awesome facilities people that move across campus with purpose. From faculty that are so beyond educated to staff that have seen thousands of students sprout wings and fly about the world. I have answered many emails from Thunderbird undergrads concerned for the future and answer honestly “Thunderbird is more than a place, a faculty or any one student..it is a light the world needs now more than ever..Thunder On!

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