Beyond Vassar

Up to the Challenge

By Samantha Soper '91

quot;If I’d known how hard it would be, I don’t know if I’d have the courage to do it again," confessed Adam Wilson ’92, referring to co-founding The Griffin School in 1996. Based in Austin, TX, The Griffin School’s mission is to be a college-preparatory high school fostering genuine relationships in a creative learning environment that enables students to think critically, demonstrate logic, and solve real-world problems. In this diverse learning community, staff create innovative educational models that empower students to enjoy education, overcome challenges, and create direction for their lives.

How does one "start" a high school? Wilson’s formula required a lot of hard work, enthusiasm, and dedication. After graduating from Vassar with a degree in mathematics, Wilson moved to Austin and "jumped right into teaching." Through teaching, Wilson experienced the "fallout of the public school system: students who have great potential, but who are often dispirited and disenfranchised from their experience at school" he recalled. "There is a real need for different kinds of educational environments." Wilson wanted to "offer a more flexible environment to help kids who may fall through the cracks at other schools."

Some of Wilson’s coworkers shared his beliefs, and discussions of starting their own school began. "We were all teachers, so we had no experience in administering a school or running a business," Wilson noted. "But, whether it was our naïveté or just gumption, we thought, ‘Why not?’ We fed off of each other’s enthusiasm and just blazed ahead."

The first few years were difficult; but now, as The Griffin School begins its sixth year, it "has a life of its own; there are systems in place, and a tradition and culture has been created out of nothing," Wilson observed.

Today, The Griffin School offers a college-prep curriculum in a creative learning environment. Wilson believes that students learn best through individual interaction with instructors and in an atmosphere that allows for them to be creative and expressive.

Griffin School logo
Griffin School logo

The Griffin — a mythological creature, part lion and part eagle — symbolizes the union of strength and wisdom. Kevin Greenblat ’91 created the logo. A graphic designer living and working in Austin, TX, Greenblat has won several gold and silver Austin Advertising Federation ADDY Awards. He most recently won the District Advertising Federation Award for a design that is now entered in the National Competition.

The school currently serves 65 students in grades 9 through 12; classes have an average of eight students. The curriculum emphasizes community development and requires that all students be involved in service both to the school community and to the larger community of Austin.

While the nonprofit school is funded primarily through donations and tuition, tuition assistance is available where there is a need. "We have a lot of kids who attend who normally would not be able to afford a private school," Wilson said, noting the diversity of socioeconomic status among students.

In addition to being co-founder and director of the school, Wilson also teaches. His wife, Caroline, works in the school office maintaining attendance records and other systems, and seven-month-old son, Sawyer, provides smiles and giggles for the students, faculty, and staff alike. For more information about The Griffin School, contact Adam Wilson at or 512.454.5797.