Scottsdale, ASU Enjoy 125-Year Partnership

Whether you’re a student, alum, employee, sport team fan or just happy to be a neighbor of Arizona State University, Scottsdale residents and businesses all have a bit of Sun Devil in them. Scottsdale—founded in 1888, two years after Tempe Normal School, the forerunner of Arizona State University, opened in 1886—has enjoyed a 125-year partnership with this world-renowned university. Thousands of ASU grads call Scottsdale home. Scottsdale-based ASU programs enhance our quality of life, from healthcare to lifelong learning. Every year, our ties to Arizona State grow stronger, building on our shared history.

Here are just a few of the countless ways Scottsdale and ASU have worked together over 125 years:

During a June 23, 1888, visit to the Salt River Valley, U.S. Chaplain Winfield Scott spoke at a Tempe rally, and met Hiram B. Farmer, who was principal of the Normal School of Arizona at Tempe. A week later, Scott demonstrated his belief in the limitless opportunities in the Valley by purchasing land that would become the nucleus of a new town that would bear his name, Scottsdale.

In 1902, Scott, a lifelong supporter of education, was invited to be one of three Valley citizens to serve on the Board of Visitors to the Normal School of Arizona at Tempe. Scott also had a bit of Wildcat in him. Territorial Gov. Alexander O. Brodie appointed Scott to the University of Arizona Board of Regents in 1903; shortly after his appointment, he was elected Chancellor of the U of A, and frequently traveled to Tucson through his term, which ended in 1905.

Professor Arthur J. Matthews, president of the Normal School of Arizona, was a special guest at the dedication of Scottsdale Grammar School on Feb. 26, 1910. The building is the oldest public facility in Scottsdale, now home to the Scottsdale Historical Society.

John Murdock, an Arizona State College professor, served in the U.S. Congress from 1937 to 1952. He retired in Scottsdale, living in the Cattle Track area to be near his daughter, Rachel Murdock Ellis, a former Scottsdale schoolteacher, and her creative and entrepreneurial family.

Thunderbird II airfield, a World War II pilot training base, closed in 1944, then was reopened by Arizona State College in 1947 as a vocational training school. Veterans, using their G.I. Bill benefits, learned automobile repair, air conditioning maintenance, upholstery and other skills. In addition to offering classes, ASC also held student social and athletic events at the former base, now Scottsdale Airport/Airpark. Student dances as well as intercollegiate rodeos took place on the grounds. Due to the distance students had to travel by bus from the Tempe campus, and the declining number of veterans enrolling in technical courses, ASC turned the base-turned-campus back to the federal government in 1953. The Arizona Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists then acquired the property, and continues to operate the Thunderbird Academy from the area south of the Scottsdale Airport runway.

Arizona State College acquired the Duhame Dairy Farm on Scottsdale Road in 1950 and used it for agricultural classes. The Duhame family had also donated farm equipment to the college for use at the Thunderbird II location.

In 1954, Scottsdale was one of four communities in Maricopa County to get an economic diagnosis from Arizona State College business administration students in the college’s Bureau of Business Research. Scottsdale had often called on ASU departments for research assistance. For example, in 2003, the Morrison Institute at ASU conducted surveys and interviews that resulted in the “Which Way Scottsdale?” report.

In 1959, musician Louise Lincoln Kerr built a residence and performing studio on two acres at Scottsdale Road and McDonald. In 1969, the studio was expanded with pew seating. The Kerr Cultural Center was bequeathed to Arizona State University in 1981, and remains a popular ASU performing arts venue.

In his last major project before his death in 1959, Scottsdale-based architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed a new performing arts center for Arizona State, which was named the Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium at its dedication in 1964. William Wesley Peters and John Rattenbury of Taliesin Associated Architects, Scottsdale, were the chief and resident architects.

In 1963, an ASU master’s degree candidate did his thesis on a newly discovered Upland Hohokam site near Pinnacle Peak. His thesis, which named the site after the landowners, the Herberger family, provided fascinating details about a previously unknown era of Scottsdale’s pre-history. The location was later renamed the Pinnacle Peak Village site, and extensively studied by Arizona State archaeologists during 1987 and 1988.

Scottsdale—the city, its nonprofit groups and countless individual volunteers—has been involved every year since the first Fiesta Bowl college football tournament was played at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe in 1971. In the Fiesta Bowl’s inaugural year, Arizona State beat Florida State 45-38; Danny White was ASU’s quarterback.

The ASU School of Nursing began operating a healthcare clinic in 1974 at  the then-new Vista del Camino Neighborhood Center in Scottsdale, a partnership that lasted into the 1980s.

In 1975, Richard Lynch, an ASU master’s degree candidate in history, authored the official biography of Scottsdale founder Winfield Scott. His meticulous research gave Scottsdale residents an in-depth appreciation for our founder, his wife, Helen, and the early decades of the city’s history.

The city of Scottsdale and the Scottsdale Railroad and Mechanical Society invited architectural students at Arizona State to submit designs for a miniature Wild West town for the grounds of McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park along the tracks of the Paradise & Pacific Railroad. After review of six or seven submissions, the winning design was then constructed and completed in 1978.

In 1994, Scottsdale, NASA and Arizona State University teamed up to map the 60-square-mile McDowell Mountains to provide information about vegetation, terrain, water resources, slope and elevation as the city contemplated creating an area for preservation.

In 2004, a developer sold the former Los Arcos Mall property on the southeast corner of McDowell and Scottsdale roads to the city of Scottsdale, which, in turn, leased it on a long-term basis to the Arizona State University Foundation for the purpose of creating the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center. Construction of SkySong began in January 2006. SkySong is “home to a global business community that links technology, research, education and entrepreneurship to position ASU and Greater Phoenix as global leaders in the knowledge economy. Organized around a central plaza with a signature shade structure, SkySong is a 1.2 million-square-foot, mixed-use development on a 42-acre campus in Scottsdale, three miles from ASU’s main campus,” according to its website,

Scores of ASU professors have lived in Scottsdale and provided community leadership in a variety of ways. The late Professor Heinz Hink served on the Scottsdale City Council and represented Scottsdale in the Arizona Legislature; Art History Professor Betsy Fahlman served on the Scottsdale Cultural Council board, the late Lt. Gen. Frank Sackton was a long-time ASU professor of ethics and also served in ASU administration; History Prof. Bill Phillips served on Scottsdale’s Human Services Commission and on many history-related committees.

ASU music professors and students frequently hold recitals at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and the Kerr Cultural Center.

In 2012, ASU’s Osher Life Long Learning Institute began holding programs at Maravilla, a retirement community on Princess Drive. OLLI’s mission is to provide university-quality learning experiences for adults ages 50 and older through diverse short courses, lectures and civic engagement initiatives.

Earlier this year, ASU and SkySong opened The Eureka Loft on the mezzanine level of the Scottsdale Civic Center Library. Eureka is a collaborative workspace that also hosts programs to help entrepreneurs and professionals on their route to success in business.

ASU departments have many healthcare links in Scottsdale, collaborating with Scottsdale Healthcare in areas such as healthcare delivery, patient registry and research; and with Mayo Clinic in areas such as medical education, research, bioinformatics and bioengineering.

Several ASU buildings, colleges and programs honor the names of Scottsdale/Paradise Valley-area residents, such as the Herberger Institute for Design & the Arts, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, Barrett Honors College, Murdock Hall, Virginia G. Piper Writer’s House, (Daniel E.) Noble Science/Engineering Library and (Barry) Goldwater Center (for Science and Engineering).

For at least the last century, Scottsdale has benefitted from the work of thousands of ASU interns, student teachers and other student community outreach programs. Scottsdale-based companies rely on a steady stream of ASU graduates to hire. Professors, administrators and coaches have spoken to area groups on current issues. ASU’s KAET-TV/Channel 8 provides a steady stream of enriching programs.

Arizona State University has come a long way from the small normal school Winfield Scott visited 125 years ago. With four campuses (Tempe, West, Downtown Phoenix and Polytechnic), total enrollment exceeds 73,000, making it the largest university in the United States. According to the ASU Alumni website, there are some 360,000 alumni around the world. That’s a lot of Sun Devil spirit!

Joan Fudala is a Scottsdale-based community historian and author. Contact: