Located in Orange County, N.Y. about an hour north of New York City, The Storm King School sits approximately 900 feet above the west bank of the Hudson River, on a spur of Storm King Mountain that offers a commanding view of the Shawangunk Mountains and distant Catskills. The campus adjoins Black Rock Forest nature preserve to the south.
The school lies in the historic Hudson Valley between West Point and Newburgh, boasting sites rich with American history and legend including Washington’s headquarters during the Revolution, Temple Hill, Stony Point, the Iron Chain, the Battle of the Highland Forts, Benedict Arnold, Fulton’s first steamboat and the legends of Washington Irving. Nearby Storm King Art Center is a renowned outdoor sculpture museum that exhibits work by world class sculptors and artists. Among them, is major Viennese sculptor Josef Pillhofer, whose contemporary statuary of the human form with outstretched arms was a gift to The Storm King School in 1964.
The Storm King School is a member of the Black Rock Consortium, which administers the Black Rock Forest, a 3,830-acre wilderness alongside the campus. The School makes maximum use of these natural surroundings for its science, environmental, and recreational programs. The Head of School is a vice president and a member of the Executive Committee of the Consortium, which includes the American Museum of Natural History, Barnard College, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Browning School, City College of New York, Columbia University, Convent of the Sacred Heart, the Dalton School, Friends Seminary, New York Academy of Sciences, New York University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Newburgh School District, and Teacher's College of Columbia University.
The Storm King School began as the Cornwall Heights School in 1867. Dr. Louis P. Ledoux, graduate of Amherst College and Union Theological Seminary, and pastor of Cornwall Presbyterian Church founded the school after calls from parents that he establish “a Christian school in the home of a Christian gentleman.” Dr. Ledoux then purchased Wood Farm on the northern slope of Storm King Mountain. Here he prepared young men for the New England colleges until 1872, when he sold his interest in the school to Oren S. Cobb. Mr. Cobb was headmaster for 15 years until 1889, at which time the school was sold to Dr. Carlos H. Stone. During Stone’s 29-year leadership, the school saw much growth, from increased enrollment to an enlarged physical plant. In 1914, the school became incorporated under New York State law and renamed the Stone School.
In 1922, during the tenure of Headmaster Alvan P. Duerr the institution’s name was changed again to the current Storm King School. In 1928, the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York chartered SKS as a tax-exempt educational institution.
From 1932 – 1951, throughout the austere years of the Depression and World War II, SKS was ably led by Headmaster Anson Barker who benefited from the patronage and participation of several prominent families who lived on the Mountain including, the Abbotts, Ledouxs, Matthiesens, Partridges, Smidts and Stillmans.
Margaret Clark, the school’s first female teacher, retired in 1938. She had worked for over forty years at SKS, mainly as the art teacher. However, her most enduring legacy is that of designer of the school’s crest initially, for the student publication “The Echo”. It was later adopted as the official school emblem.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the school saw enormous growth and development thanks in part to the dedication of Stephen P. Duggan, an attorney and long-time member and chairman of the Board of Trustees. A graduate of Exeter and Harvard, he was married to Beatrice (Abbott) Duggan and together they owned property adjacent to the school. During his tenure, Mr. Duggan oversaw the robust rebuilding of SKS’s then-44 acre campus including construction of The Ogden Library (1958), Dyer Hall (1958), Highmount Dormitory (1958), Dempsey Dormitory (1959), Stillman Science Building (1960–61) and a new gymnasium (1963).
In 1967 The Storm King School celebrated its 100th anniversary. It was the culmination of a nearly decade-long campus modernization project championed by chairman Duggan and successive SKS headmasters: Burke Boyce (1952-1956), Warren Leonard (1956-1966) and Frank Brogan (1966-1974). During centenary celebrations of May 20, 1967, Ambassador-at-large Averell W. Harriman dedicated the brand-new Walter Orr Student Commons.
In April 1968 further progress was made on campus, though, at the expense of an iconic building. “Old Main” or the Main Building, as it was formally known. It was a landmark presence on the SKS campus for over 100 years when it was demolished to make way for a new dormitory. Residents of Old Main moved into brand new McConnell Hall in the spring of 1968.
The Storm King School became coeducational in September 1970.
In 1981, Dr. Rients and Suzanne Van der Woude of Cornwall, gave the school 70 acres of land on Storm King Mountain, just west of the campus. Dr. Van der Woude said he gave the land in order “to preserve it forever and so that children can learn about nature and ecology, and respect for life and earth.” The gift augmented SKS’s campus to 125 acres.
The Van der Woude property was part of a historic, 17-year dispute between New York utility Consolidated Edison and the Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference, a group of concerned residents and citizens. In 1963 Con Ed set its sights on building a massive hydroelectric plant on Storm King Mountain, which would’ve involved cutting through the mountain, and flooding Black Rock Forest to create a reservoir. In 1965, Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference was given unprecedented legal standing based on aesthetic and conservation considerations. It is credited with launching today’s grass-roots environmental movement. The Con Ed plan was eventually abandoned and the suit settled in 1982.
In 1990, during the tenure of Headmaster John H. Suitor, a roll-off shed observatory was built on campus for the purpose of housing a late 19th century refractor telescope. The antique telescope was given as a gift to the school by Board member Robert Cobb and was originally owned by Erard Mathiessan, granduncle of Beatrice (Abbott) Duggan. It was eventually sold in order to purchase the school’s current Parks Newtonian telescope. The observatory was designed and built by former SKS astronomy teacher and prolific science writer Bob Berman.
Mountain Day: takes place at the start of every school year and is marked by a hike up Storm King Mountain by the entire school.
Ringing of the Bell: following each win, victorious SKS athletic teams rush to the bell tower in the center of campus to ring the bell by hand thereby signaling their triumph.
The Storm King Cup: a highly coveted award given to a deserving SKS student each year during commencement “to encourage high ideals, manly sport, tenacity of purpose, earnest behavior, fair play, and true chivalry.”
In the fall of 2004, The Storm King School founded the Academic Support Program to provide for the learning needs of students who were ready for a traditional college preparatory curriculum but who needed specialized support.
In addition to traditional academic courses and ESL, The Storm King School offers students the opportunity to learn through theater and visual arts, music, dance, sports, various clubs and community service.
SKS offers a full athletic curriculum and competes in the New England Prep School Athletic League . It is a member of The Hudson Valley Athletic League (HVAL), an association of 12 similar schools located in the Hudson Valley, Putnam Valley, and the Housatonic region between Newburgh, New York and Waterbury, Connecticut, and The New England Private School Athletic Council (NEPSAC).
The Storm King School owns its own fleet of six 420 club sailboats and competes in the New York Interscholastic Sailing Association (NYISA), a league of the MidAtlantic Scholastic Sailing Association (MASSA). In recent years, the Boys Soccer, Boys Wrestling and Boys Basketball teams have gained prominence as one of the top teams in New York and New England Class D competition. Boys basketball team has won the New England Prep title in 2016 and the boys soccer and girls lacrosse programs are quickly gaining prominence as being the most competitive programs in NEPSAC Class D. The school's soccer field has received a major upgrade in 2016 and the all natural grass field ranks among the top soccer playing surfaces in New England.
Fall sports: Soccer, Sailing, Cross Country, Volleyball, Mountain Biking, Crew
Winter sports: Basketball, Bowling, Wrestling, Rock Climbing, Fencing, Bowling
Spring sports: Lacrosse, Crew, Sailing, Softball, Baseball, Mountain Biking, Tennis, Golf
In 2011 SKS revitalized its dormant Outdoor Education Program. The program’s mission is to develop a lifelong appreciation for wilderness and the importance of a sustainable lifestyle. The program includes: a wilderness ethics class, mountain biking, hikes on Storm King Mountain and Black Rock Forest, rock climbing in the Shawangunk Mountains, camping trips to the Adirondacks to summit Mt. Marcy – New York’s highest mountain, boat building and international service expeditions (Galapagos - Fall 2016, Cuba and South Africa – Spring 2017).
The Storm King School has graduated a number of notable alumni including:
Headmaster Burke Boyce (Headmaster 1952-1956) was an Olympic fencer who competed for the U.S. Team at the 1924 Olympics. He was an integral part of developing the school’s fencing program, which continues to this day.
Whiting Willauer ’23, former U.S. Ambassador to Honduras and founder of Civil Air Transport (CAT)
Walter Reade Jr. (’35) President of Walter Reade Organization, owned and operated movie theaters, and distributed films. The school’s theater is named for Walter Reade Jr.
Jack Hemingway (’41) Writer, conservationist, son of great American author Ernest Hemingway
Thomas (Tom) Price (‘51) Olympic rower who competed for the U.S. Team at the 1952 Olympics
Peter Boyce (’54) Astronomer, pioneer in publication and linking of electronic science journals
Mac Gayden, ('58), Country music star. Gayden's biggest hit as a writer is considered to be the song "Everlasting Love".
Balazs Szabo (’63) Hungarian-born artist and author
David Parks (’69), an American photographer, film director, publicist, and author.
Robert Toricelli (’70) Former Congressman and Senator from New Jersey
Jeffrey (Jeff) Hall (’74) Mountaineer who reached the summit of Mount Everest on May 14, 1995
Steven Zirnkilton ('76), American voice-over actor, known for providing the opening narration of all US shows in the Law & Order franchise
Wally Pfister (’79) Academy Award winning cinematographer, director
Cara Castronuova (’98) Boxer, two-time Golden Gloves winner, trainer on the NBC’s “The Biggest Loser”
Sammy Mejia (’03) Professional basketball player, 2nd round draft pick by the Detroit Pistons