Riverdale Country School

Riverdale Country School

Mind, Character, Community
5250 Fieldston Road (Hill Campus), 1 Spaulding Lane (River Campus)
Riverdale, New York 10471
United States
Coordinates 40°53′59″N 73°54′03″W / 40.89968°N 73.900863°W / 40.89968; -73.900863Coordinates: 40°53′59″N 73°54′03″W / 40.89968°N 73.900863°W / 40.89968; -73.900863
Type Private
Independent school
College preparatory school
Established 1907
Founder Frank S. Hackett
Head of school Dominic A.A. Randolph
Grades PreK-5 at the River Campus and 6-12 at the Hill Campus
Enrollment 1140
Campus Suburban
Color(s) Maroon and Gray
Athletics conference Ivy Prep
Mascot Falcon
Accreditation New York State Association of Independent Schools
Newspaper The Riverdale Review
Yearbook The Riverdalian
Website School website

Riverdale Country School is a co-educational, independent, college-preparatory day school in New York City serving PreK through Grade 12. It is located on two campuses covering more than 27 acres (110,000 m2) in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, New York. Started as a school for boys, Riverdale Country School became fully coeducational in 1972. It currently serves 1,140 students.


Mow Hall on the Hill Campus of Riverdale Country School

Founded in 1907 by Frank Sutliff Hackett (1878-1952) and his first wife, Francis Dean (Allen) Hackett, Riverdale Country School is one of the oldest country day schools in the United States. Originally known as the Riverdale School for Boys, it began with 12 students and four teachers and promised scholarly, intimate teaching amid abundant recreational space.[1] Describing his school as "an American experiment in education," Hackett later told The New York Times: "We have tried to transform schools from mere nurseries of the brain into a means of nourishing the whole boy — mind, body, and spirit." [2]

An early advocate of outdoor experiences for young people, Hackett started a summer camp known as Camp Riverdale at Long Lake in the Adirondacks (1912-1964) to provide summer recreation for his students. [3] By 1920, Hackett had acquired three acres on Fieldston Road for the school and built a classroom building and dormitory. The 100-room dormitory, designed by McKim, Mead, and White, [4] later became known as Hackett Hall. In 1924, he started the Neighborhood School for boys and girls from grades one to three, and in 1933, the Riverdale Girls School. By World War II, the school attracted both day students and boarders; one student in six or seven came from another country.[5]

Hackett dreamed of expanding the school into an "American World School" and acquired a new site in Riverdale.[6] In 1948, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, then president of Columbia University, spoke at a dedication ceremony at the site.[7] Hackett died before his dream was realized, and the property was sold. In 1972, the Boys and Girls Schools were combined.[2] In 1985, the Middle and Upper Schools were consolidated on the Hill Campus and the Lower School moved to the River Campus. Hackett was an organizer of the Guild of Independent Schools of New York City, and an organizer and president of the Adirondack Mountain Club.[8]

President John F. Kennedy attended the school from 1927 to 1930 when his family lived in Riverdale. During the 1960 presidential campaign, J.F.K. made an appearance in the Bronx. "I said up the street that I was a former resident of the Bronx," he said. "Nobody believes that, but it is true. No other candidate for the presidency can make that statement." [9]


Hackett Hall on the Hill Campus of Riverdale Country School
The Upper Learning Building, completed in 2016, on the River Campus of Riverdale Country School

Covering 19.5 acres, the Hill Campus is located on Fieldston Road, overlooking Van Cortlandt Park. It is home to the Middle School (grades 6 to 8) and the Upper School (grades 9 to 12). Facilities include Hackett Hall, Mow Hall, Lindenbaum Center for the Arts, the Lenni Benson Building (aka the 9-10 Building), Vinik Hall (the Admissions Building), the Weinstein Science Building, the Science Annex, the Day Care, and the P. Gordon B. Stillman Amphitheater. An aquatic center is under construction. The Hill Campus has three playing fields (Frankel Field, Alumni Field, and the Frank J. Bertino Memorial field) and tennis courts. The Marc A. Zambetti '80 Athletic Center includes a gymnasium, fencing room, and workout room. It is currently being renovated to add a second gymnasium and an expanded health/fitness center.

The River Campus (grades PreK to 5) sits on eight acres by the Hudson River. The buildings on the River Campus are the Early Learning Building (PreK through second grade classrooms and the gymnasium), the Senior Building (classrooms for drawing, painting, and sculpture), the Upper Learning Building (completed in 2016; includes a theater, cafeteria, classrooms for third through fifth grade, and multi-purpose spaces), the Admissions/Junior building (includes the Lower School head's office, the Learning Commons, and Admissions). The River Campus also has tennis courts, a playing field, a greenhouse, gardens, and a playground. The land for the River Campus was given to Riverdale by the family of George Walbridge Perkins, an early environmentalist and associate of Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan. The family also donated their adjacent property, Wave Hill, to the City of New York for a public garden and cultural center. [10]


Jones Lawn, Riverdale Country School

The school’s original mission of “scholarly, intimate teaching,” its emphasis on learning beyond classroom walls, and its attention to the whole child continues to this day with a philosophy that combines rigorous teaching with attention to the social and emotional development of students.

Becoming Riverdale's sixth head of school in 2007, Dominic A.A. Randolph refined the school’s mission with a focus on “Mind, Character, and Community.” He eliminated courses tied to Advanced Placement tests, and advocated a teaching philosophy centered on building character strengths, such as grit, optimism, curiosity, and self-control. [11] Working with Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania and an authority on “grit,” and Dave Levin, the co-founder of the KIPP network of charter schools, he co-founded Character Lab, an organization dedicated to providing research-based approaches to character education.

In addition to college-preparatory courses in math, science, and humanities, Riverdale offers “maker” programs that combine science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics, as well as courses in robotics and coding. Latin, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese also are offered. Students explore interests and take on leadership roles through a wide variety of co-curricular programs. Interdisciplinary courses in the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools encourage students to draw connections across disciplines. Constructing America, a required course for juniors, is co-taught by the History and English faculty. Integrated Liberal Studies, a required course for seniors, explores four essential topics: Virtue, the Self, Social Justice, and the Environment. Independent study opportunities allow students to gain in-depth knowledge in subjects of their choosing. The Global Studies program organizes trips around the world that deepen classroom experiences, provide opportunities for service learning, and build relationships with other schools and communities. An outdoor educator organizes hiking, camping and rock-climbing trips in the Hudson Valley, trekking in Patagonia, and kayaking in Alaska.

A proponent of design-thinking, Randolph worked with the design firm IDEO to develop the “Design Thinking Toolkit for Educators.” [12] Riverdale also partnered with IDEO on the Teachers Guild, a crowd-sourcing network that shares ideas about improving classroom teaching. [13]

Riverdale is chartered by the New York State Board of Regents and is accredited by the New York State Association of Independent Schools.[14]

Student life

Arts and activities

Upper School students produce one musical and one play each year in the Jeslo Harris theatre. Riverdale students may participate in the jazz and concert bands, orchestra, chamber music ensembles, chorus, dance team, and the a cappella singing groups, the Rivertones and Testostertones. More than 40 student-led clubs, organizations, and service-learning partnerships are offered.

Student publications

The Riverdale Review is Riverdale's student-run paper.[15] Impressions has published the visual art and creative writing of students in the Upper School for almost 30 years.[16] Crossroads is Riverdale’s Middle School Literary and Art Magazine.[17] The Falcon Times is the newsletter of the Middle School.[18]


In the spring of 2013 crew was introduced as a varsity sport for boys and girls. In the 2013-14 school year, wrestling was officially cut from the list of sports.

Sports teams

Interscholastic Athletic Teams
Sport Season Gender
Baseball Spring Boys'
Basketball Winter Boys', Girls'
Cross-Country Fall Girls', Boys'
Field Hockey Fall Girls'
Fencing Winter Boys', Girls'
Football Fall Boys'
Golf Spring Boys', Girls'
Lacrosse Spring Boys', Girls'
Soccer Fall Boys', Girls'
Softball Spring Girls'
Squash Winter Boys', Girls'
Swimming Winter Boys', Girls'
Tennis Fall (Girls'), Spring (Boys') Boys', Girls'
Track Winter Boys', Girls'
Ultimate (Frisbee) Spring Boys', Girls', Coed
Volleyball Fall Girls'
Crew Spring Boys', Girls

Notable alumni

Notable staff

Nathan M. Pusey, president of Harvard University, (1953-1971) taught at Riverdale Country School [29] as did Victor L. Butterfield, president of Wesleyan University (1943-1967).[30]


Riverdale is a member of the Ivy Preparatory School League and the New York State Association of Independent Schools.[31]

The "Hill Schools": Riverdale Country School, The Fieldston School, and Horace Mann School together are known as the "Hill Schools," as all three are located within two miles (3 km) of each other in the neighborhood of Riverdale on a hilly area above Van Cortlandt Park.

See also


  1. "Hackett Park Highlights : NYC Parks".
  2. 1 2 http://www.nytimes.com/1972/02/03/archives/new-headmaster-to-take-over-at-riverdale-as-it-turns-coed.html?_r=0
  3. "Camp Riverdale records - Camp Riverdale".
  4. "Riverdale Country School, Hackett Hall - Projects - Beyer Blinder Belle". November 10, 2016.
  5. Quickened Spirit: A Biography of Frank S. Hackett," by Allen Hackett; the Riverdale Country School, 1957
  6. "Riverdale's World School Plans," by Murray Illson; The New York Times, April 27, 1947
  7. "Eisenhower Calls Schools Peace Key: Says At Riverdale Dedication Education Can Defeat Men Seeking Personal Power," The New York Times, October 17, 1948
  8. Dr. Frank Hackett obituary, The New York Times, February 7, 1952
  9. "New York Today: J.F.K. in the Bronx". blogs.nytimes.com.
  10. https://riverdalenature.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/architectural-reduced.pdf
  11. "What if the Secret to Success Is Failure?". The New York Times. September 18, 2011.
  12. "Toolkit « Design Thinking for Educators".
  13. "The Teachers Guild".
  14. Riverdale Statistics
  15. Riverdale Country School ~ Riverdale Review
  16. Riverdale Country School ~ Impressions
  17. Riverdale Country School ~ Crossroads
  18. Riverdale Country School ~ Falcon Times
  19. "Love at First Lab - Barnard College".
  20. Illson, Murray. "INTERVIEW; U.S. Attorney at Age 31", The New York Times, July 17, 1977. Accessed December 15, 2008.(subscription required)
  21. Buffa, Denise; Fermino, Jennifer; and Mangan, Dan. "PERP SCHOOL: '500G THIEF' BOOKKEEPER BUSTED AT RITZY RIVERDALE", New York Post, May 25, 2007. Accessed October 23, 2008. Archived September 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  22. Diamond, David. "James Gleick's Survival Lessons", Wired, August 1999. Accessed June 17, 2009. "Gleick attended Riverdale Country School, where JFK once studied, and excelled in mathematics and science."
  23. Wolfer, Sondra. "Olympic fencer Tim Morehouse takes his stab at being the best", New York Daily News, July 21, 2008. Accessed August 5, 2008. "As a young teen, Tim Morehouse took up fencing at the Riverdale Country School as an excuse to get out of gym class."
  24. IRITANI, EVELYN (September 28, 1997). "Back to His Future". Retrieved November 1, 2016 via LA Times.
  25. "Bill Mow 2/15 - Asian American Rags to Riches Success Stories - GoldSea". goldsea.com. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
  26. "Articles about William C W Mow - latimes". latimes.com. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
  27. "Bugle Boy to Battle on New Fronts : The firm's founder overcame personal and business woes to build a top clothing firm. : Now his company aims for new markets." by Barry Stavro, Los Angeles Times, August 8, 1989.
  28. "The Ticker - Bugle Boy Files For Bankruptcy," by The Associated Press, New York Daily News, February 3, 2001.
  29. "Nathan Pusey, Harvard President Through Growth and Turmoil Alike, Dies at 94". The New York Times. November 15, 2001. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
  30. "Victor L. Butterfield, Office of the President - Wesleyan University". wesleyan.edu. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
  31. "New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS): Riverdale Country School". nysais.org. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
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