From the Archives…

Dear Readers,

Can you identify this famous President of Thunderbird from the following clues?

1.This President was selected by the board of trustees when Thunderbird was struggling in every aspect; academics, physical campus, student morale and funding.

2. Being the seventh President of Thunderbird, he served for 17 long years and changed the reputation of Thunderbird to one of the best graduate schools. During his tenure he also added 9 new buildings to Thunderbird. A building in Thunderbird is dedicated to this President.

3. Frank Snell, Founding Member of the board of Trustees, once said about this President, “When we looked around here we found a good man right in our own backyard, and he had good international experience, far more than any of the others we interviewed. It was a critical period. We needed the right man and we got him.”

Dr. and Mrs. William Voris; Courtesy: Thunderbird Archives
Dr. and Mrs. William Voris; Courtesy: Thunderbird Archives

Yes. I am talking about President William Voris, who was the seventh President of Thunderbird from September 1, 1971 to June 30, 1989. He became the President when there were quite a few problems in Thunderbird. The students and the faculty were not happy with the changes in curriculum, the finances were not good, the buildings were becoming old and Thunderbird needed to build a brand image.

First, President Voris concentrated on the academics side. He made Thunderbird known amongst the other 2000 colleges in United States and 500 colleges outside the United States. His criteria to select new faculty: having a Ph.D. degree and an International experience. He recruited expert faculty for the International Studies Department and added Ph.D.’s to the language department. He also increased the compensation for the faculty so that it was on par with other colleges. During his tenure, Thunderbird received its accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools for a 10-year period, the maximum accreditation period possible and began its first foreign program at the Autonomous University of Guadalajara in Mexico.

Second, President Voris concentrated on building the Alumni network. During his time, alumni statistics were recorded and it was found that Thunderbird had 7000 alumni working in about 4000 companies in 90 countries worldwide.

Third, President Voris gradually increased the enrollment of students. There were about 800 students enrolled in 1974 and by the continuing efforts of the President it became 1,083 by Fall 1988. President Voris also got support from corporations like Citibank, Chase, Bank of America, Goodyear and Caterpillar. The first annual giving program was started with Joe Klein as international Chairman. Thunderbird received $571,774 for the 1975 fiscal year as contributions, passing the half million mark for the first time. By 1986, the contributions crossed $1 million and by 1988, the contributions crossed $2 million.

President Dr. William Voris and Thelma Kieckhefer; Courtesy: Thunderbird Archives
President Dr. William Voris and Thelma Kieckhefer; Courtesy: Thunderbird Archives

Fourth, President Voris built nine buildings at Thunderbird. He found the original buildings were old and initiated the construction of various new buildings. West apartments were completed, the auditorium was remodeled. A new entrance (Von Wrangell Island) was completed. Bookstore, post office and dining hall were remodeled. Tally Career Services Center was completed. Two new dormitories were completed, one on each side of Founder’s Hall: Kieckhefer Hall (“I” Dorm) and “J” Dorm. Snell Learning center was dedicated.

Frank Snell praised President Voris’s accomplishments. “He has given 150 percent of dedication. He is aggressive, vigorous-just like he plays tennis. Bill Voris has had the ability to meet all the special requirements of being president of Thunderbird. He has a great capacity for getting to the heart of problems and solving them and he has developed a very warm relationship with the board. He welded the board together in a very effective way.”

Frank Snell and President William Voris; Courtesy: Thunderbird Archives
Frank Snell and President William Voris; Courtesy: Thunderbird Archives

“No single person has made a greater contribution to the academic success and international recognition of this institution,” said William Turner, chairman of the Board of Trustees during dedication of the building named for Dr. Voris.

President Voris was an efficient administrator, a master scholar, super organizer, internationalist and an athlete. He was a patient man who had kept Thunderbird on an upward track for 18 years. The change had indeed been gradual and was most wanted for Thunderbird. It was, and still is, considered nothing short of awesome.


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