Our School & History
Whether you graduated from Prep 60 years ago or are new to Prep as a freshman parent, we have a shared history and tradition of excellence. In 1891, 137 boys formed the first class at Seattle College High School. Each school day began with Mass, and the young men were expected to master a traditional Jesuit curriculum patterned after the Ratio Studiorum (established by the Society of Jesus in 1599): Latin, Greek, math, literature, science and religion. In order to provide access to Jesuit education, in 1899 Seattle College charged a modest $15 per year in tuition, although costs far exceeded the charge.
In 1919, T.C. McHugh purchased Adelphia College, a Swedish Baptist seminary and school, and donated the property to Seattle College. In fall of that year 143 students began classes at the new Interlaken campus, Prep’s home for over 90 years.
In 1933, the high school officially changed its name to Seattle Preparatory and in 1948 Seattle College became Seattle University. In ensuing decades, the Seattle Prep community continued to meet every challenge and seize many opportunities. McDonnell Hall was built in the 1950s, Peyton Hall was constructed as a Jesuit residence in the 60s, McHugh Gymnasium in the 1980s and, in the last two decades: St. Ignatius Hall, underground parking/plaza, PACCAR Commons, Fr. Healy Chapel/Theater and the Lee Family Arts Center.
The 1970s witnessed equally dramatic changes within Prep’s buildings, both in structure and educational vision. In 1975 Seattle Prep, having determined that Jesuit education should not be restricted to half the population, celebrated its first female graduates. Later that decade, Matteo Ricci College was born out of a fruitful collaboration between Seattle Prep and Seattle University. This unique program allows Prep juniors to “commence” to Seattle University, thus giving students the opportunity to earn a Prep diploma and SU Bachelor of Arts degree within six years.
These structural changes in the 1970’s were accompanied by a re-visioning of Prep’s educational philosophy. While retaining the academic rigor of the Ratio Studiorum, Prep shifted to an integrated approach to studies designed to develop our students’ abilities to analyze, synthesize, reflect, and problem solve. Prep’s emphasis on integration and collaboration challenges students to grapple with ideas, not subjects, and emphasizes building connections between concepts instead of merely assimilating information.
Prep’s Collegio model is illustrative of this unique approach. Collegio synthesizes the core humanities – English, history and theology – into one class taught by two instructors. What would this mean, for example, in a Sophomore Collegio? In one unit students analyze The Tale of Two Cities while exploring broader historical and religious movements in 18th century Europe. But the learning experience transitions from fact mastery to connecting ideas, from the specific to the general: What are the root causes of all revolutions? And back from general to specific: How do the root causes of all revolutions apply to the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011? What religious movements contributed to these revolutions? This integration happens within a spirit of collaboration as students and teachers work together toward the common goal of deeper understanding.
To borrow a phrase from the early Jesuits, our “way of proceeding” is not like other ways. We eschew, for example, curricula focused on rote memorization and standardized tests. Rather, our way challenges students to extend their reach beyond information toward formation and, at special moments, transformation, thus creating a learning environment that is fully responsive to the expectations of an active, responsible global citizen in the 21st century.
Today, both the opportunities and challenges are clear. Seattle Prep’s 700 students and more than 9,500 graduates - educated in the 470 year Jesuit tradition and formed within Prep’s unique educational vision - strive to transform our city, state, nation and world. And they leave Prep fully equipped to do so.