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Introduction to the School

Downloadable PDF of an abridged version of an article by Dr. Peter Hackett, oldest grandson of Riverdale's founder, Frank Hackett, about character education at Riverdale.
Riverdale History
1907 Frank Sutliff Hackett and his wife, Frances, open one of the nation's first country day schools. The Riverdale School for Boys, located on a rented estate high above Van Cortlandt Park, has only twelve students and four teachers, but enrollment doubles by the end of the first year.

1909 The first interscholastic athletic event, a fencing match with the Hackley School, inaugurates a rivalry that forms the basis of the Ivy Prep School League and begins an enduring athletic tradition at Riverdale.

1920 After years of gradual expansion, the rest of the twelve-acre site now known as the Hill Campus is purchased. A dormitory for boarding students is constructed, and first through third graders are admitted to what will later become the Neighborhood School.

1933 The Riverdale School for Girls opens on what is now the River Campus, a leased estate of spacious lawns and stately houses along the Hudson River only one mile from the Hill Campus. Miriam Denness Cooper is named principal of the Neighborhood School and first principal of the Girls School.

1949 John Haydn Jones, formerly an English teacher at the Deerfield School, becomes Riverdale's second headmaster.

1952-68 The opening of a new library begins an extensive building program that also includes the Weinstein Science Building and the gymnasium on the Hill Campus and the Perkins Study Center on the River Campus.

1958 Miss Cooper retires; Marion Hollstein becomes second Girls School principal.

1971 Marion Hollstein retires and Lois Rochester becomes the third Girls School principal.

1972 John Haydn Jones retires; Gordon Stillman, assistant headmaster at the Choate School, is selected as Riverdale's third headmaster. The Neighborhood School, the Boys School, and the Girls School are combined in a single coeducational school.

1981 As part of its seventy-fifth-anniversary celebration, the school sponsors a symposium at Columbia Teachers College that draws the country's leading educators.

1984 Roger B. Boocock, former headmaster at Pembroke Country Day School, is appointed as Riverdale's fourth headmaster.

1985 The Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools are consolidated into two divisions: the Lower School for pre-kindergarten through grade six, located on the River Campus; and the Upper School for grade seven through grade twelve, located on the Hill Campus.

1989 The school receives a grant from the DeWitt Wallace Reader's Digest Fund to support financial aid for students of color and to aid recruitment and hiring of faculty members of color.

1993 A new building, housing twelve classrooms and a gymnasium, opens on the River Campus.

1997 John R. Johnson, former president of Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School, is appointed as Riverdale's fifth headmaster. Final negotiations are completed for the purchase of 7.5 acres adjacent to the Hill Campus. Added to the Hill and River Campuses, this parcel brings the school's holdings to 27.5 acres, increasing the land area of the Upper School by 63%.

1998 The Weinstein Science Building is renovated and outfitted with a technology center of scientific workstations that support 3-D visualization, real-time data collection and analysis, and graphical simulation. The Upper School gymnasium is renamed the Marc A. Zambetti '80 Athletic Center and renovated with additional seating, new scoreboards, improved locker rooms, and a state-of-the-art fitness center and athletic training room.

1999 The Main Building on Hill Campus is named William C.W. Mow Hall. The three-story Linda M. Lindenbaum Center for the Arts opens, making RCS the only independent school in New York City to have a single building dedicated solely to the teaching of music and the visual arts. The Upper School auditorium is renovated and dedicated as the Jeslo Harris Theater.

2000 The Hill Campus amphitheater is dedicated in memory of P. Gordon B. Stillman. The Jolli Run playground opens on the grounds of the Lower School, providing a variety of age-appropriate activities in three discrete play stations, as well as a central clubhouse for use by all classes.

2001 Work begins on the integration of the Hill Campus and the adjacent Manhattan College land acquisition. Vinik Hall, a historically important nineteenth century structure, is moved and rotated 90 degrees. It is placed on its new foundation, close to Fieldston Road, at what will eventually be the new vehicular entrance to the campus. Construction of a regulation-sized athletic field near Fieldston Road, begins, as does work on the expansion of the existing athletic field in front of William C.W. Mow Hall. A new floor that will house two advanced laboratories and a prep room is added to the Weinstein Science Building.

2002 The Lisman Laboratories on the new floor of the Weinstein Science Building are officially dedicated.

2003 Vinik Hall, housing the Offices of Upper School Admission and Development, and the two Alumni Memorial Fields, are officially dedicated at Homecoming/Reunion.

2005 The sixth grade moves up to the Hill Campus from the River, as a new Middle School division for Grades 6-8 is established and housed in the renovated Frank S. Hackett Hall. The Roger B. Boocock Library is enhanced and expanded as part of the renovation, and the Hill Campus Student Center is created by enlarging the Hill Campus Dining Room, capturing the former "wasted space" on the roof of the Marc A. Zambetti '80 Athletic Center. A covered second-floor walkway serves as a bridge between Frank S. Hackett Hall and the new Student Center.

2007 Dominic A.A. Randolph, Assistant Head Master at The Lawrenceville School, is named Riverdale's sixth head of school.  The Hill Campus Student Center is renamed the John R. Johnson Student Center in honor of Riverdale's fifth headmaster, Dr. John R. Johnson, upon his retirement.

2011 Sandy Shaller, Head of Lower School since 1985, retires after 34 years of service to Riverdale Country School. Dr. Edwin P. Gordon, former Head of Lower School at The Walker School in Marietta, GA, is named Sandy's successor.

2013 One of the Alumni Memorial Fields on the Hill Campus is renamed Frankel Field in honor of David F. Frankel '58, who along with his wife Linda made a generous gift to RCS that will in part be used to create the Frankel Family Fellows, an endowed fund for faculty professional development on both campuses. 
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