Schoolboys Abroad was conceived by Clark Vaughan (pictured left), Spanish teacher at Wilbraham Academy, and SYA's first Resident Director. Wilbraham Academy wanted to launch the program in 1963-64 and had at least 20 processed applications for that fall, but an emergency expenditure at the school put the program on indefinite hold. Vaughan then took the idea to Phillips Academy (Andover) where Headmaster John Kemper backed the program and gave it space for an administrative office. Daniel (Dan) Olivier, head of the French Department at Germantown Friends School, was Vaughan's assistant in setting up the program and taught English for SYA.
Col. Edward M. Harris, a Phillips Academy Spanish teacher, was the first executive director for Schoolboys Abroad.
American-based faculty members Olivier and Ted Hammond (math teacher from Phillips Academy) and their wives accompanied the first group of boys aboard the ship. Olivier was also instrumental in identifying the location for SYA France, which opened in Rennes in the fall of 1967. He served as executive director in 1972-73 as well as resident director in France in 1977-80.