The Matteo Ricci Program: The Relationship Between Seattle Prep and Seattle University

Ginger Doran, Staff Writer

In the 131 years of Seattle Prep’s and Seattle University’s existence, the two schools’ relationship has evolved and expanded together. Both Seattle Prep and Seattle University opened their doors as Jesuit schools for boys in 1891. In 1898, the schools’ relationship began as Prep merged with Seattle University and was renamed “Seattle College”. Seattle College primarily taught high school classes while also offering a few freshmen college courses. Later, in 1929, Seattle College separated from Seattle College High School. In 1933, Seattle College high school was officially renamed Seattle Preparatory School and, in 1948, Seattle College officially became Seattle University again.

After 46 years of separation, Seattle Prep and Seattle University reunited with the creation of the Matteo Ricci program.  The Matteo Ricci program was named after Jesuit Priest and missionary, Matteo Ricci. As a missionary, Ricci taught western mathematics and shared European ideas in China. In 1975, Seattle Prep made two big transitions by introducing the Matteo Ricci program with Seattle University and opening their doors to girls for the first time. At first, Prep only offered the Matteo Ricci program with the sole option of three years of high school and three years of college to complete a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities (BAH). But, in 1984, they reformed the program to also offer a fourth year of high school for students who needed it. In 1988, the Matteo Ricci program extended into other Catholic high schools in the area including O’Dea, Kennedy Catholic, Eastside Catholic, Forest Ridge, and Archbishop Murphy. The Matteo Ricci program continued at Prep for 40 more years but ended in 2017 due to a large decrease in interest in the program.

Alumni, Mary McDowall Schimmelman, departed from Prep and commenced at Seattle University in 1985, along with 120 other students. Schimmelman was drawn to the Matteo Ricci program due to Seattle University building a new gym and being known for its warm community. Schimmelman’s two older siblings, whom she admired, also participated in the Matteo Ricci program at Prep. For Schimmelman, the only disadvantage was missing her senior year, but this was only a slight disadvantage because she was still able to participate in the sports, extracurriculars, and dances at Prep. When asked what some advantages were to being a Prep and Matteo Ricci student, Schimmelman said, “I loved Collegio, it was so interesting to learn about history and society from a holistic perspective with multiple teachers who brought different opinions, information, and attitudes to the conversation, and encouraged us to do so too”.

Alumni, Bella Oishi, departed from Prep and commenced at Seattle University in 2017, with only 2 other students from Prep. By junior year, Oishi knew she wanted to attend law school, so the Matteo Ricci program gave her the opportunity to fast forward a year of school. The only disadvantages Oishi experienced were the awkwardness of being a high schooler in a college class. When asked what some advantages were to the Matteo Ricci program, Oishi responded with, “I could pick 2/3 of my classes every quarter from any course at Seattle University, so I took random classes on anything that sounded interesting”. The program also gave Oishi a more flexible schedule with only having classes Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Because of this, Oishi was able to remain super involved at Prep in what would be her senior year, while also attending Seattle University, with being a captain of the cross country and lacrosse teams and attending school events such as dances and graduation. Oishi began law school in 2020 and now attends Georgetown law.