School History

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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, begins with12 students and four teachers. Enrollment doubles by the end of the first year.


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.


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.


The Riverdale Country School for Girls opens in 1933 with Miriam Dennes Cooper as the first Principal. Two years later the school moves to the George Perkins estate, an 1870 mansion on the Hudson River, currently the home of our Lower School's River Campus.


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


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.


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


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


John Haydn Jones retires; Gordon Stillman, assistant headmaster of 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.


As part of its 75th anniversary celebration, Riverdale sponsors a symposium at Columbia Teachers College that draws the country's leading educators.


Roger B. Boocock, former headmaster at Pembroke Country School in Kansas City, Missouri, is appointed Riverdale's fourth headmaster.


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.


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.


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


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%.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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. Milton J. Sipp becomes the first Head of Middle School. 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.


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.


Riverdale partners with KIPP NYC—a non-profit network of free, public charter schools that prepare students for success in college and life—and the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania to develop ways of using positive psychology in schools, including a “character strength” assessment. This collaboration is later profiled by Paul Tough in the September 14, 2011 edition of The New York Times Magazine.


Alvin Ailey, one of the pre-eminent dance companies in the world, begins conducting a week-long residency at the Lower School for all PK-Grade 5 students. The program soon expands to a two-week residency that is held every year in January, culminating in a performance by all of the students.


Several Riverdale educators and administrators collaborate with IDEO, an internationally-acclaimed design and innovation company, to develop a design thinking “toolkit” for educators.


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.


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.


To help better understand brain trauma in sports, and to develop a customized strategy to improve player health and wellness, Riverdale partners with the Sports Legacy Institute (SLI), a non-profit organization founded by Christopher Nowinski and Dr. Robert Cantu, a world-renowned expert in sports concussions. The school also hosts a Concussion Symposium in October.


The R+ Campaign, a major fundraising effort, is publicly launched. The campaign's purpose it to enhance Riverdale's educational experience.


Calvin Hill '65, a former standout NFL player, speaks on campus as part of the 1957 Alumni Speaker series.


Expanding its service-learning program, Riverdale takes inaugural trip to Alabama.


Riverdale hires its first outdoor educator. 


Riverdale begins using heart-rate monitors as a teaching tool for physical education and team sports.


The Middle School holds its first Project Learning Week, opportunities for small groups of teachers and students to explore creative thinking and design outside the traditional classroom. 


Ugandan gay-rights activist, Frank Mugisha, recipient of the Jolli Humanitarian Award, speaks to the Middle and Upper Schools.


The first-ever Lindy 500 Kinetic Sculpture Race celebrates engineering, creativity, and humor. 


In addition to its global studies programs in France, Spain, China, Japan, and Peru, Riverdale starts a service-learning/character education trip to New Zealand and outdoor education trips to Patagonia and Alaska.


Construction begins on a Lower School classroom building to replace Perkins on the River campus and a stand-alone aquatics center that will allow for major renovations to the Zambetti Athletic Center.


Lower School Head Dr. Edwin P. Gordon announces his resignation and a search begins for a new division head. Head of School Dominic A.A. Randolph moves his office to the River Campus for the 2015-2016 school year.

A Pioneering School

“A need for pioneering in education was seen, and a way found to try to answer it. This was not done by two people alone, but by all who were in any way connected to the school, by all who believed in it.”

— Frank Sutliff Hackett, founder and head of Riverdale Country School, 1907-1949

Riverdale Country School

Mind • Character • Community



Lower School
1 Spaulding Lane
Bronx, NY 10471
LS: (718) 549-7780

Middle/Upper School
5250 Fieldston Road
Bronx, NY 10471
MS/US: (718) 549-8810

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Riverdale teaches students to become lifelong learners by fostering "growth" mindsets. Go There ><

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The River Campus offers a spacious, natural setting for our youngest students, inspiring learning and play. Go There >

Riverdale offers "STEAM" (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) teaching to Lower School students. Go There >

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Middle School students explore hands-on learning through the Riverdale Maker program. Go There >

Project Knowmad allows Middle Schoolers to learn in a different way, using NYC as their classroom. Go There >

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Riverdale teaches students to make connections through our interdisciplinary programs. Go There >

The club and activity program encourages students to explore their passions and try new things. Go There >

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About 80 percent of Upper School students participate in athletics. Go There >

Riverdale's Hill Campus has an indoor pool, football stadium, weight room, and 3 playing fields. Go There >

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Riverdale has entry points in Pre-K, Kindergarten, 6th, and 9th Grades. Visit our campus today. Go There >

Approximately 20 percent of Riverdale students receive some level of financial aid. Go There >

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Last year's Annual Fund totaled nearly $5 million in gifts from alumni, parents, and friends of the school. Go There >

Have you included Riverdale in your estate plans? Please let us know and join our expanding group of Hackett Planned Giving Society members today. Go There >

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