The Preuss School began when a group of UC San Diego faculty began planning for the best way to increase the number of students in the university who come from low income or under-represented groups. Under the leadership of Cecil Lytle, provost of Thurgood Marshall College at the time, the group approached then UC San Diego Chancellor Robert Dynes and requested that a charter school for students in grades 6-12 be built and run by the university.
Believing that it was the mission of a land-grant university to find ways to better prepare young students for admission and success at the university, Dynes brought the idea before the faculty senate. The senate agreed to the plan on the conditions that the university find the money to build the school and run it financially self-sufficiently.
The first and most significant gift toward building the school came from Peter and Peggy Preuss and their family foundation. In recognition of their $5 million gift, the school was named The Preuss School UCSD. John Moores, the Walton Family Foundation, the Copley Family, Douglas Manchester and the Coors family also made significant gifts and key areas of the school are named in recognition of their critical support.
The Preuss School, which is chartered by the San Diego Unified School District and operated by UC San Diego, opened in 1999 in portable buildings on UC San Diego’s Thurgood Marshall campus with 150 students in grades 6–8. The current state-of-the-art facility on the university’s East Campus off of Genesee Avenue was completed in 2000. Classes began on the new campus in the fall of 2000.