What does an American car company have in common with an international school in Switzerland? At first glance, the answer would appear to be ‘very little’. However, in the late 1950s, when Willys Motor Company relocated its Jeep manufacturing plant to Zug, it brought with it many American employees to run its operation. They in turn brought their families and the need for a school taught in English became apparent. This early connection between an American company and the responsibility of providing education for expatriates eventually resulted in the founding of the International School of Zug and Luzern.
The Zug American School was established as a small tutoring group for American children in 1961. With just 14 students whose parents worked at the Willys Motor Company (makers of Jeep), the school was also known as the “Jeep American School” and “The Willys School” as one alumna remembers. Over the next 50 years, the school would be renamed, expanded and relocated many times: The Zug American School (1961-1964) at the Felberhaus in Zug led by Gwyn and Anita Bevan; The Zug Anglo-American School (1964-1987) in downtown Zug and later Cham led by the Bevans; The International School of Zug (1987-2008) at the Swiss Post building in Cham and Landis+Gyr building in Zug and later Walterswil led by Martin Latter. However, the school never wavered in its enthusiastic commitment to offer the highest educational standards to the expatriate children in the local community. Throughout its history, the school’s dedicated owners, directors and teachers shared a common vision to develop a strong scholastic programme by creating a fun environment in which to learn, along with exciting athletics programmes, extra-curricular activities and cultural excursions. While it started out to serve a small group of American children, the school ultimately ended up providing education for students from around the world.
The Riverside School was founded in 1990 as a university preparatory high school offering the College Board's Advanced Placement programme and was led by August Zemo. Twenty-five students and nine faculty/staff members were present on the first day of classes held in Gattikon, Zurich. By 1997 The Riverside School moved from its location near the Sihl River to Zug and David Brooks became director. In 2001, The Riverside School became the first school in Switzerland to be authorised to offer the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme. From 2003 until 2010, the school occupied Salesianum Villa in Zug. During this time Dominic Currer became school director followed by Anthony Jones as head of campus in 2008.
The International School of Luzern was founded in 2006 with just 12 students as a sister school to the long established International School of Zug. Together with Luzern city official, the school’s aim was to provide an international English-speaking education for the expatriate community of inner Switzerland. The school occupied the Krämerstein Villa and was led by Angela Hollington.
The International School of Zug and Luzern (ISZL) was founded in 2008 following the merger of the International School of Zug, The Riverside School and International School of Luzern. In the same year ISZL purchased their Outdoor Education Centre in Wengen. The successful merger resulted in an innovative vision, which takes into account the school’s past, focuses on its present and prepares for its future. It is because of a shared vision and philosophy among its divisions that the school succeeds. Approaches and methods vary throughout the school, but each campus benefits from the others’ aspirations with significant newfound opportunities made available since the merger took place.
An overview of the last 50-plus years of ISZL’s history reveals that it has continuously been committed to providing an exceptional academic curriculum coupled with an exciting range of activities and outdoor adventures. Despite its many incarnations, from a small tutor group to a school across several campuses offering education for all ages, it has consistently offered the highest scholastic opportunities for expatriates in central Switzerland. Over the past five decades of progress and expansion, the passion and dedication of many individuals have culminated in a highly successful, not-for-profit educational organisation meeting the needs of more than 1,200 pupils from over 50 nations.
ISZL has grown into an expansive community. From former students, parents and staff who look back on their time at the school with genuinely fond memories, to current members of the community who are deeply committed to the development of the school, the extended families are united by one common vision. With a clear purpose comes direction, and that momentum is evident in the progress of the school. ISZL is confidently commencing its next 50 years grounded in the ethos of ‘Respect, Motivate, Achieve’.
For an entire history of the school and photographs of the school’s journey, please see Celebrating 50 Years, a book published in 2012 commemorating ISZL’s 50th anniversary and legacy, and our photo archive.