“Let it endure like the Wasatch Mountains, call it Wasatch Academy” — Wasatch Academy founder Duncan McMillan
As a Presbyterian Minister devoted to life improvement through education, Duncan McMillan opened the doors of Wasatch Academy’s first schoolhouse to local residents of Utah’s Sanpete County in 1875. That now famous quote cemented not only the name of the school, but began a tradition of excellence, that has lasted throughout the duration of Wasatch Academy’s history — over 141 years.
When Duncan McMillan arrived in Mt. Pleasant, Utah, after several life changing events, he was approached by a number of local residents asking if he had ever taught school. He replied that yes, indeed, he had — and the group immediately asked him to start a school and to teach their children.
This group of dedicated men offered McMillan a building that would house the school, complete with a mortgage that was due within one year. Information about this original school building, a historic structure which is now the campus museum and a Utah Heritage Award site, can be accessed at the official Liberal Hall page.
When asked what he wanted to name the school, Duncan McMillan said: “Let it endure like the Wasatch Mountains, call it Wasatch Academy.” Since that prophetic statement, Wasatch Academy has stood for excellence in education by challenging and nurturing students to develop their unique capabilities as learners.
Through much of its first 100 years as a Presbyterian-sponsored school, Wasatch Academy primarily served students throughout the western United States whose families sought a strong academic foundation for their children.
Many students came from mountainous Natural Parks and rural areas where schools were non-existent. Students from ranches, farms, reservations and small rural communities came together with students from larger populated communities whose parents sought a high quality educational opportunity for their children.
In the early 1970s, the Presbyterian Church mission shifted nationally from large scale support of schools to serving a broader social mission. In response to this loss of sponsorship in 1974, Wasatch Academy re-opened for the 1974-75 school year as an independent school.
While still serving rural and local students, Wasatch Academy began attracting larger numbers of students from the metropolitan areas in the United States. Since the 1950s the school has attracted strong contingencies of students from throughout the world. Today, the school educates about 350 students representing 40 countries and 30 American states.
Wasatch Academy’s ability to provide outstanding educational opportunities to a richly diverse student body is the school’s greatest asset, stemming from the belief that a diverse school community promotes greater creativity, health, and educational value for every student attending Wasatch Academy. Yet diversity at Wasatch Academy doesn’t just mean ethnic or racial diversity; it also means diverse geographic, socioeconomic, religious and learning styles.