Explore RCDS History

Each generation that has passed through Rye Country Day School has added its mark while remaining committed to the values and expectations of the School’s founders.

Mrs. Susan Life and the Reverend William Life early in their lives at Rye Seminary in the late 1860s.

1869 – Rye Seminary

Historical Overview

Rye Country Day School had its beginnings in 1869.

A group of local parents, wishing to improve the quality of education available for their daughters, contacted Mrs. Susan J. Life and her husband the Reverend William Life, who ran a small school in Pennsylvania. The Lifes came to Rye and established The Rye Female Seminary under the direction of Mrs. Life. During its first year – 1869 – sixty students (25 boarders and 35 day students) enrolled in The Seminary, which was located on the present school property on Grandview Avenue.

In 1896

The Seminary was purchased by the Misses Harriet and Mary Stowe, two members of the faculty. Upon assuming leadership, the Stowe sisters initiated significant changes in the curriculum. During this period, The Seminary was at the forefront of a national trend, namely the introduction of college preparatory programs for women. Conscious of the potential financial risk for a strictly proprietary institution, a group of parents bought The Seminary in 1917 and established it as a nonprofit day school under the direction of a board of trustees.

In 1921

The Seminary merged with a boys’ school from nearby Harrison – The Rye Country School – and together they became known as The Rye Country Day Schools. In 1928, the “s” was dropped from the word “Schools,” signifying unification into a single, well-integrated institution. To accommodate the presence of boys, the campus experienced a period of growth and development. At this time, the School offered a program for girls from kindergarten through grade twelve, and a program for boys from kindergarten through grade nine. It was not until 1964 that this pattern of organization was changed, when the Board of Trustees extended the enrollment for boys through grade twelve.

Over the years

Additional property was acquired, buildings were constructed and roads moved, all with the help of many generous friends, families and alumni. The appearance of the campus today is not one that the Lifes or the Misses Stowe would have recognized. Each generation that has passed through has added its mark and improved the facility to meet its particular needs. From the construction of the Main Building in 1924, to the additions of the Pinkham Building and the La Grange Field House in the sixties, the Dunn Performing Arts Center in the eighties, the new Lower School classrooms, new dining center and the unveiling of the Athletic Center in the early two-thousands, the turf athletic fields in 2006, the expansion of the Pinkham building to include Memorial Hall in 2010, and the most recent addition of the Cohen Center of the Creative Arts set to open in 2018, the Rye Country Day campus has kept pace with the needs of its community. Today students in grades pre-kindergarten through twelve enjoy a state-of-the-art facility while remaining fully conversant with the traditions and expectations of the School’s founders.

“Not for Self, but for Service”

In her words: Susan Life reflects on the origins of the RCDS School motto, “Not for Self, but for Service.”
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