Wasatch Academy Celebrates 130th Birthday; Plans Events to Promote School, Heritage – Press Release 1/24/2005

DATE 01/24/2005 7:28 AM

This is part of an occasional series by the Sanpete Country Travel and Utah Heritage Highway 89 Alliance on the people and places along U.S. Highway 89.

Wasatch Academy Celebrates 130th Birthday;
Plans Events to Promote School, Heritage

Wasatch Academy, one of Utah’s oldest schools, is celebrating its 130th birthday this year, and students, faculty, parents, alumni and the greater community are invited to join in the festivities.Located in Mt. Pleasant, the academy was founded in 1875. Covering 17 acres in Sanpete County’s hub city, the academy boasts some of oldest building in the region. In fact, the entire campus, which includes classrooms, a gymnasium, dormitories, a large playing field, homes for faculty and a museum, has earned historical designation. It continues to be an attraction along Utah’s heritage highway, U.S. Highway 89.Special events to mark the 130th birthday include Parents’ Day Feb. 4-6, which brings students families to campus for a weekend of celebrations and excursions. This year, there will be a ski trip, a dinner and fund-raising auction. Parents will also attend parent/teacher conferences, and have opportunities to interact with their Childs teachers and classmates.

April 16, the school will hold its annual Founder’s Day, and events and activities will promote the history and future of the school. As part of its’ year-long birthday celebration, Wasatch Academy also hopes to increase awareness of its offerings in the community and throughout Utah. “We are very interested in finding more ways to promote the school within Mt. Pleasant and the entire state, especially in terms of how we fit in and contribute to the heritage highway,” says Vern Fisher, the school’s development director.

“We are interested in having people come see the campus and go on tours. For example, we have a museum that is quite amazing. We also have 12 original Stansfield painting displayed throughout the campus and 14 original Ansel Adams photos displayed in the new student center. The Ansel Adams photos were donated to the school by the artist (, whose grandson was one of our students.”

The private boarding school, which has a reputation for outstanding academics and individualized student attention, has some 146 students enrolled in grades 9 through 12. The academy, accredited by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges since 1939, is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools and the College Board.

Wasatch Academy’s students come from 14 different countries and 24 states. About 14 of its students are “day students,” meaning they attend classes and school functions, but live with their families in the community. “We have kids from all walks of life, there are many different cultures represented,” Fisher says. “The diversity that the school helps bring into rural Utah is absolutely phenomenal.” Most of the students start in ninth grade and stay through their senior years. “In fact, just this week, the start of spring semester, we had 20 new students join us, most of them freshmen. With our retention rate, we expect most of them to stay for four years,” Fisher says.

Not only do students come from around the world, the school also has special international programs. One is its Tibetan scholarship. “Every four years, we get two new Tibetan students. They literally arrive here with nothing, they often come straight from refugee camps in Nepal,” Fisher says. “Two new students will soon be joining us soon, as two of our current Tibetan students are about to graduate. This is the second group of students we’ve had. Students who have gone through the program stay in the United States for school and then plan to return to their country.”

Another unique component at Wasatch is the interaction among students, faculty and staff. The school has about 50 full-time and 25 part-time employees, with 50 percent of the faculty and staff living on campus. Faculty and staff interact with students all day, including at meals and after-hours study sessions, often held in the faculty member’s homes in the evenings.

“There is excellent one-on-one time between students and faculty. The structure of the students’ life in regard to their study habits is one of Wasatch’s best attributes,” Fisher says. “Wasatch Academy is truly a community inside a community. For example, all meals are eaten in the dining hall. Families of our teachers and staff are all encouraged to join the students and teachers for meals.” There is also a day-care on campus for children of employees.

Students also mingle with the community, regularly going on outings and excursions such as shopping sprees, movies or ski trips. The school’s cross-country ski team participates with the public school’s districts’ team, and they are currently looking into creating a joint La Crosse team. “Throughout the years, we’ve had a good relationship and association with the city and public school district. Today there is a synergy coming together. We are working hand- in- hand for the betterment of the city as whole,” Fisher says.

The school also has extensive extra-curricular activities, one being its outstanding debate program. Last year, the school hosted the world debate championships, an event that attracted participants from around the world to Mt. Pleasant. Recently, Wasatch Academy was designed at the location for the National World debate semi-finals to be held annually. This year’s competition will be Jan. 21-23. “This is a permanent designation,” Fisher says, adding it is the first such honour for a Western U.S. school. For more information, visit Wasatch Academy’s website at www.wacad.org

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For more information Contact:Monte Bona
Sanpete County Travel and Heritage Council
(435) 462-2502
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