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Riverdale Country School

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Established  1907
Head of school  Dominic A.A. Randolph
Color  Maroon
Founded  1907
Founder  Frank S. Hackett
Phone  +1 718-549-8810
Total enrollment  1,140 (2015)
Riverdale Country School
Type  Private Independent school College preparatory school
Motto  Mind, Character, Community
Grades  PreK-5 at the River Campus and 6-12 at the Hill Campus
Address  5250 Fieldston Rd, Bronx, NY 10471, USA
Similar  Horace Mann School, Ethical Culture Fieldston, Siskind Robert MD, Trinity School, The Dalton School

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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.


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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. 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."

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. 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, 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.

Hackett dreamed of expanding the school into an "American World School" and acquired a new site in Riverdale. In 1948, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, then president of Columbia University, spoke at a dedication ceremony at the site. Hackett died before his dream was realized, and the property was sold. In 1972, the Boys and Girls Schools were combined. 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.

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."


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 Admissions/Junior building (includes the Lower School head's office, the Learning Commons, and Admissions, and the Upper Learning Building. Completed in 2016, the Upper Learning Building includes a theater, cafeteria, classrooms for third through fifth grade, and multi-purpose spaces. Architectural Record noted: "It is a building born of exploration, deep discussions with educators about their needs and desires, and a willingness to tweak on the fly." 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.


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. Working with Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania 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. 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. An outdoor educator organizes hiking, camping and rock-climbing trips in the Hudson Valley, trekking in Patagonia, and kayaking in Alaska.

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

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. Impressions has published the visual art and creative writing of students in the Upper School for almost 30 years. Crossroads is Riverdale’s Middle School Literary and Art Magazine. The Falcon Times is the newsletter of the Middle School.


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.

Notable staff

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


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

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.


Riverdale Country School Wikipedia