On Thursday night, Campaign Chairs Barbara & Craig Barrett announced the successful completion of the Thunderbird Campaign: an effort to raise $65M in gifts and pledges by 2011 (our 65th anniversary) to support Thunderbird’s mission. In a little over five years, thousands of alumni and friends around the world came together around a shared desire to invest in Thunderbird, to help this pioneering institution created in the heart of Arizona 65 years ago, to continue to educate global leaders who can bring about peace and prosperity around the world.
Like the rest of trustees attending the small, private celebration, I was humbled and moved. This campaign means much more than $65M for all of us: it means 65 million expressions of commitment to our mission, of recognition of the daily work of our faculty and staff, of encouragement to keep finding new ways to change more lives around the world through education and thought leadership.
I can’t possibly document all that was said over the last three days, the tears, the gratitude, the generosity. But I will leave you with one story, provided by one of our thousands of donors, an octogenarian, World War II veteran who, without any expectation of personal recognition, signed the biggest check we received. We asked him why he chose to support Thunderbird. This is his answer:
When I was a freshman in college, a young man enjoying life, I was asked to join the army to help my country and the world. And so I did. I was trained as a pilot in a place just like the Thunderbird field where we’re sitting today. I flew, I fought and I was proud to make a difference. As an old man, I want to keep helping my country and the world. And what better way to do that than by helping Thunderbird train thousands of leaders from around the world who will help build a more secure, more peaceful and more prosperous world? As an old man, I cannot fly anymore. So I decided to let Thunderbird fly for me, to let Thunderbird fly forever.