In the summer of 1995, a group of friends—all young Vancouver professionals—got together to discuss an idea. The group included Dr. Peter Wong, Dr. Raymond Kwan, Jack Siu, Ronald Khoo, Raymond Yue, Bill Wan and Peter Tsang. After Dr. Wong chatted with his friend Andrew Chan, the wheels continued to turn. The group expanded to include Michael Choi, Jonathan Choi, Clifford Mirikitani and Caroline Sze, building a momentum that would alter Vancouver’s independent school landscape only nine months later.
The group had met to discuss the logistics of starting an independent coeducational day school on Vancouver’s west side, an idea they’d actually been discussing for some time. Each individual had their reasons for considering an ambitious undertaking, but all felt this would be a way of giving back to the community and paying it forward. They all placed extremely high value on education, and moreover an education that prioritized the whole child, that gave children confidence in themselves and their ability to handle life’s challenges, and that promoted an open-minded, global perspective on the world.
Finding a school location was key, and the group looked at three locations before leasing 18 acres from the Province of British Columbia on the Jericho Lands, the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. The group managed building renovations, set up the business office, procured equipment—most of it secondhand—and even designed the uniform (well, their wives designed the uniform—thank you, Simmy Wong, Rita Kwan, Anna Siu, Katie Khoo, Edna Yue and Eleanor Wan). In April 1996, Andrew Chan, Michael Choi, Elsie Sze, along with the original group of Dr. Wong, Dr. Kwan, Jack Siu, Ronald Khoo, Raymond Yue, Bill Wan and Peter Tsang, established WPGA as a school under the name West Point Grey Academy Independent School Society.
In June 1996, Clive Austin, then Director of Admissions at St. George’s School, was hired as Headmaster. That summer, Mr. Austin hired 24 teachers and staff for WPGA. And soon word spread in the community about this new, progressive school set to open in September 1996.
The admissions plan was to enroll 150 students, yet demand was high, and by September 1st, 325 children in JK to grade 8 had joined the “little school with a big vision.” In only five years, the school grew to a JK-12 school and proudly graduated its first grad class in 2001.
When Clive Austin retired from WPGA in 2013, Tam Matthews became our second Head of School, bringing 30 years’ leadership experience at independent schools across Canada.
In July 2019, Tam Matthews retired from WPGA and Stephen Anthony, founding teacher and longstanding Head of Senior School, became our third Head of School.
Since 2010, WPGA has been at full capacity with 943 students, and now employs 174 teachers and staff. In June 2021, our 21st graduating class will join a network of 1,200 alumni around the globe.
With our original school motto of Progredimini Confidenter, Go Forth With Confidence, we celebrated our 25th anniversary in 2020-2021. Guided by our vision, our connection with the land, our community, and our mission of Shaping Lives of Inquiry, Action & Joy, we look ahead to 25 more years and beyond on the Jericho Lands and to many more generations of Grey Wolves.