Five decades ago, Gus and Marty Trowbridge set out to create an independent school where equality, social justice, a diverse community and the inspiration of Martin Luther King, Jr. would form the basis for children’s education. On September 21, 1966, 66 intrepid children from a range of backgrounds, races, ethnicities and socioeconomic circumstances walked through the doors of Manhattan Country School on East 96th Street to get an education that combined academic excellence with the idealism of social justice and equality; an education based on the philosophy that children learn best by doing, not sitting and listening; an education that sought to instill activist values in its children.
At the time, MCS was a radical experiment. Private, but not elite, the school asked each member of the community to pay fees commensurate with their income and expected all members of the community to appreciate each other for their differences as well as their similarities.
MCS has become a powerful model of education—under the leadership of Gus, until his retirement as director in 1997, and then Michèle Solá. In Michèle’s 23 years as director of MCS, she built on the formidable foundation set by Gus. Michèle strengthened the school’s academic program by expanding Spanish, science and math offerings. Under her guidance, activism became an integral component of students’ coursework. She also worked to build stronger curricular connections between learning at the MCS Farm and what takes place in our New York City classrooms.
In partnership with the Board of Trustees, Michèle played a pivotal role in shaping the future of MCS and the strategic plan rooted in the school’s founding mission and values and designed to sustain our sliding-scale tuition model, improve our facilities, increase teacher compensation and expand our impact.
Fifty years after opening, under the leadership of then Director Michèle Solá, Manhattan Country School moved to a new facility at 150 West 85th Street. MCS is neither an experiment nor a utopian vision. It is a reality—a school that has true socioeconomic, racial and ethnic diversity, thus providing its graduates with an academic education complemented by a deep understanding of the multicultural richness of the world.
More than 1,500 students have attended MCS since it first opened its doors on that rainy day in 1966. They are making an impact in education, social services, finance, government, media, law, medicine, the arts and a host of other fields. While the roads they have traveled since their days at MCS are varied, they all carry with them the shared values of critical thinking, curiosity, individuality and compassion.

Our Founders' Story

List of 1 items.

  • Gus and Marty Trowbridge

    Lyndon B. Johnson entered his second term as president. The war in Vietnam was escalating. The march on Selma led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, while race riots erupted in Watts, California. Malcolm X was assassinated.

    As these history-shaping events were unfolding across the globe in 1965, in New York City Gus and Marty Trowbridge were planting the seeds of an idea that would grow to become Manhattan Country School. Both were moved by the state of current affairs and captivated by the call for equality set forth by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his “I Have a Dream” speech.
    Read More
©2020 Manhattan Country School. All Rights Reserved.