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From the Archives…

Courtesy: Thunderbird Archives
Courtesy: Thunderbird Archives

Dear Readers,

I will give you three clues and I want you to identify this charismatic former President of Thunderbird.

Clue 1: He was a skilled pilot and owned a private plane. Many times he flew his plane directly to the Thunderbird Campus.

Clue 2: Due to his earnest efforts and hard work, the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges accredited Thunderbird for its Bachelor’s of Foreign Trade (BFT) making it into a Masters Of International Management.

Clue 3: During his time, Thunderbird celebrated its 20th anniversary and the name was changed from American Institute of Foreign Trade to Thunderbird Graduate school of International Management.

Yes. Most of you would have guessed by the third clue. I am taking about Dr. Arthur Peterson, Fifth President of Thunderbird. Dr. Peterson was the President of the school from April 1966 to October 1969. He had completed his academic work from Yale, South California, Minnesota and Chicago. At the age of 23, he became the youngest legislator of the country then. Before coming to Thunderbird, he had taught at Wisconsin Eau Claire and at Ohio Wesleyan University.

Shannon Walker, the Archivist from Thunderbird School of Global Management interviewed Dr. Peterson in 2012 and Dr. Peterson shared his rich experience in Thunderbird and his rationale behind various decisions that he made during his tenure as the President of Thunderbird. Dr. Peterson had also served in the navy during the World War II and served as a commanding officer of a rifle company at Camp Pendleton in Korea during the Korean War. It was in this war that he urged his interpreter to come to United Stated to obtain his education. Eventually “that brilliant boy did come to United States and got his Ph.D. in civil engineering. Dr. Peterson says that bringing this boy back to United States was his height of military service.

Courtesy: Thunderbird Archives
Courtesy: Thunderbird Archives

When asked about his passion was flying, Dr. Peterson explained that during his time as the Chairman of the Ohio Civil Rights commission, he had to travel for long distances between Ohio, Toledo, Youngstown and Cincinnati to conduct hearings. The drive was not only tiring but a dangerous one. So he decided to buy an airplane to reach faster and safer. He wrote a book that soon became a best seller and he bought an airplane. Dr. Peterson, Thunderbird with its airstrip invited him because he was then able to park his airplane behind his house and it was always an exciting feeling for a pilot to be near his airplane.


Courtesy: Thunderbird Archives
Courtesy: Thunderbird Archives

Dr. Peterson built the married students’ quarters and a bigger library – the then Yount Library. He also felt that the school should have a worshipping place and to facilitate the students to follow their religions, he built the chapel. He was responsible for getting the accreditation to Thunderbird as a graduate school offering Masters of International Management. He also made sure that women enrolment increases in Thunderbird. 50% of his time he was trying harder to obtain funds for the school. He used to fly down to East coast or to West Coast to get new funds for the school. Few companies like Goodyear helped in building the new library. Also few other banks – First National City supported professorships during his tenure. Dr. Peterson was called by the Shah of Iran to consult in the organization of political party system and he went there to serve as an advisor and made contact with few students over there.


Speaking about videos that were created during his time, Dr. Peterson explained that the Marco Polo’s of Thunderbird was created during his period as the President of Thunderbird. He requested Lowell Thomas, a very famous man on news during that time to film for the school. Lowell Thomas agreed if Dr. Peterson would take him on his plane and fly low to see flowers in desert. Dr. Peterson kept his word and thus Marco Polo’s of Thunderbird was born. The archiving department of Thunderbird has done a wonderful job and the film is digitized. The film can be seen at Marco Polo’s of Thunderbird

Dr. Peterson in his interview with Shannon Walker went on to explain that his personal choice for the name of Thunderbird was American Institute of Foreign Trade (AIFT). But Ray Rubicon, the best-known advertising man in the world supported for having ‘Thunderbird’ in the school name. So finally during the 20th anniversary of the school, the name was changed to Thunderbird Graduate School of International management. Due to health reasons, Dr. Peterson retired from his position as the president and remained in the position of board of fellows for 40 long years. He still has remained in touch with the school and regularly learns about the progress of Thunderbird.

Courtesy: Thunderbird Archives
Courtesy: Thunderbird Archives

One thought on “From the Archives…

  1. It is truly wonderful to hear that Dr. Peterson is doing so well after all these years. I remember seeing his airplane out by the president’s house most of the time and being very jealous. Hopefully we will be able to see each other in person somewhere in the near future.
    All the best and happy holidays.
    John Dunmar — Class of 1967 AIFT
    NYC, NY

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