The Story Behind the School

Founders reflect on University Prep


Photo: courtesy of Mary Beth Lambert

All founders together cutting cake.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023, marked University Prep’s 46th anniversary. With this, two founders looked back at their experiences, where the school was and where it is today.
Teachers Terry Froggatt, Roger Bass, Chris Peterson McGarry, John Makinin, Aileen Welgan, Jane Seymour, and Pat Landy set out in 1975 to bring a mission of diversity and inclusion to a broader community.
Parents “were looking for a situation where their child could learn, be stretched, where it was inclusive, where they had opportunities to try new things,” founder Terry Froggatt said.
The real idea of the school began under less than ideal circumstances. When a loss of funding to the state public schools resulted in a mass firing of all the young teachers, this meant no jobs for many of the founders.
“What happened was in 1975, the levy failed. And so the district, which is the public school district, they RIFed, which is reduction in force, they let go all teachers who had nine years or less of experience,” Froggatt said.
Though UPrep had gained much attraction, the founders still faced large challenges.
“In the early years, we had to put forth extra effort to obtain a balance between the number of girls and boys in each grade level and within the classes. This was not always easy because it was more common for families to want to send their sons to independent/private schools than their daughters,” Froggatt said.
In the beginning, the founders made many sacrifices. Pat Landy began the school when she was 27 years old. She was the only language teacher and taught seven classes. Her mother also taught art classes for the school, while Chris Peterson McGarry’s mother answered the phones. The founders also built their own desks and painted their own walls.
“Which everyone was up for because we were building something. And when you’re doing that, you just go in and say ‘Yep! Gotta be done!’” Froggat said.
Each founder brought unique experiences, opportunities, and skills. Pat Landy believes this was one of the things that made the school so successful.
“We were seven people, very, very, different people, and that was one of our strengths because we could each take different responsibilities that spoke to our talents. At times we would have differences of opinion, and I think it was John Makinin that said, ‘What’s the best that we can do for our students? What do they need?’ And from then on in, we could zero in on that and all agree to that,” Landy said.
The school has progressed in different ways over time, but that student-led goal has always remained the same in some shape or form.
“My goal is that when kids leave here they’re leaving stronger and with good memories. And so every decision we make in the school, even at our senior leadership meetings, we always ask ourselves the question, ‘Is this going to be good for students? How is this going to impact students?’” Head of School Ronnie Cazeau-Codrington said. “Because at the end of the day, this is for you.”