The Gow School

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The Gow School
The Gow School Campus.jpg
South Wales, New York
United States
Type Independent, day and boarding
Motto "Bear and Dare"
Established 1926
Headmaster Mr. Bradley Rogers
Faculty 42
Grades 6-12
Enrollment 146 students total: 135 boarding, 11 day students, representing 18 states, 23 countries
Student to teacher ratio 4:1
Campus Rural, 100-acre (0.4 km2)
Color(s) crimson & navy blue
Athletics soccer, cross country, golf, rowing, basketball, squash, wrestling, ski racing, lacrosse, tennis and outdoor education
Mascot Raven

The Gow School is a college-prep boarding and day school for students, grades 6-12, with dyslexia and similar language-based learning disabilities. Other diagnoses include developmental coordination disorder, auditory processing disorder, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and disorder of written expression. Students may also have attention (ADD or ADHD) or executive function difficulties. Located in South Wales, New York, near Buffalo, New York, United States the school was founded in 1926 by educator Peter Gow, along with insight from his colleague, neurologist Dr. Samuel T. Orton.[1]

Gow’s college preparatory curriculum is presented using a multi-sensory format in a technology rich environment. The 4:1 student to faculty ratio allows focus on the remediation of language based learning differences (reading, written expression, spelling, dysgraphia, auditory processing disorder and dyscalculia) through a phonics based program known as Reconstructive Language, a near relative of the Orton-Gillingham method. In addition to academics, Gow offers a strong athletic program, diverse fine arts curriculum, and a picturesque 100-acre (0.4 km2) campus.

During June and July, The Gow School offers a five-week Summer Program for students who have experienced academic difficulties. The program combines morning classes with traditional afternoon and evening camp activities and weekend trips.


The Gow School has its roots in the early teaching experience of founder Peter Gow Jr., who as an instructor at Choate Rosemary Hall, Nichols School, and The Park School of Buffalo had become interested in the plight of students who, though clearly intellectually able, struggled with certain aspects of learning in the language domain, especially spelling and reading. After contacting Dr. Samuel T. Orton, a noted New York physician who had done pioneering work in the area of dyslexia, Gow began development of the Reconstructive Language methodology that has been the backbone of the Gow School program since its founding.[2]

For several years Gow held a summer school for selected students on property he had purchased in South Wales,[2] and in 1926 he took the risk of starting a boarding school for a handful of boys. Over the years the school grew, although a school of small size and intimate, structured community was felt by Gow to be an ideal environment for the remediation of dyslexia and the development of habits of mind that would help students compensate for their language difficulties.

After Gow died in 1958, Norman W. Howard became headmaster, serving until the early 1980s. During the period of Howard's headship the school passed from proprietary ownership by Howard and David W. Gow, the founder's son, into the control of a board of trustees as a non-profit institution. A program of campus development was begun with the construction of the Isaac Arnold Library, named for the school's first board chair.

With Norman Howard's retirement, David W. Gow became headmaster. During the period of his leadership, a vigorous building and academic development program was undertaken, with the school growing from about 116 students to over 150. A new gymnasium, study hall-classroom building, and dormitory were completed before Gow's retirement in 1991. David Gow remained active in the school community until his death on December 19, 2011.

Under the next headmasters, J. William Adams and William Patterson, campus development continued with the construction of Warner House, a new dormitory with two faculty residences, and The Gow Center, a gymnasium and recreational complex. At the same time, the school continued the acquisition of land in South Wales that had begun under David Gow.

In 2004, M. Bradley Rogers became the school's sixth headmaster. In his first years as the school's leader, such notable developments occurred as the transformation of the original gymnasium into the state-of-the-art George Reid Art Center. The school's educational reach has continued to grow, with the school welcoming a growing population of international students as well as the traditional contingent of students from throughout North America.

The Gow School continues to be preeminent as a college preparatory school for dyslexic students. Its methods, still based on the work of Peter Gow Jr. and Dr. Samuel T. Orton, remain highly regarded among educators in the field of reading and literacy.


The Gow School campus consists of 120-acre (0.5 km2) of woodlands in South Wales, NY. There are six dormitories (Rogers Ivie House, Ellis House, Cornwall House, Templeton House, Whitcomb House and Warner House), six academic buildings (Main Building, Isaac Arnold Library, Orton Hall, Reid Art Center and Wolbach Science Building and The Alice R. Gow Science, Technology and Robotics), The Gow Student and Athletic Center (with squash courts, indoor tennis, a weight and exercise room and hardwood basketball), the Weston Dining Hall, administrative buildings and faculty housing.


Gow students take a minimum of six academic courses yearly. Reconstructive Language, Gow's core reading program, is mandatory at each grade level. Graduation requirements consist of four credits in English, three in History, three in Mathematics, three in Science (two in a laboratory science), one and a half credits in Visual and Performing Arts, and one half credit in Health. A variety of electives are offered, including Spanish, Journalism, Economics, American Perspectives, Calculus, Advanced Biology and Physics, Robotics, Business Seminar, Computer Graphics, Advanced 2D and 3D Art, Theater, and Vocal and Instrumental Music.

Technology plays a central role in Gow’s academic program. A school wide laptop program was introduced in 2006, and assistive technology, including Kurzweil text-to-speech software, is incorporated across the curriculum. Gow is one of the few secondary schools in North America which has a CNC router—a complex milling machine that is used in the fabrication of the robots constructed each year by the robotics team.

For students requiring additional support, individualized Executive Functions Coaching is provided. The EFC program helps students develop organizational and time management skills. For International students, English as Foreign or Second Language (ESL) services are also available.


The Gow School offers Varsity, Junior Varsity and/or Modified levels in three sports: soccer (Fall), basketball (Winter) and lacrosse (Spring). Other selections include: cross country, volleyball, golf (All Catholics 2015,2016), squash, wrestling, ski racing, tennis and Outdoor Education. Students also may participate in an intramural program and/or weight training. Athletic fields and a 49,500 square foot athletic facility provide ample space for competing and training. During the winter months, two local resorts, Kissing Bridge and Holiday Valley, provide the opportunity for intramural and competitive skiing. The current Athletic Director for The Gow School is Mark Szafnicki.

In addition to the athletic options, students can choose to participate in drama, which is offered 2 out of the 3 seasons every year. Students perform plays that are directed by Joseph Brognano. The sets are designed by students.

Notable alumni[edit]

  • Brooks McCabe ’66, West Virginia State Senator
  • Edward “Trey” Roski ’84, Co-creator of BattleBots
  • Brian Talma ’84, Olympic windsurfer, member of Professional Windsurfing Association (PWA) World Tour, Barbados Service Star recipient
  • Quinn Bradlee '02, learning disabilities advocate; son of Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Gow, David, W. Gow: A Father, A Son, A School. Posterity Press, Inc., 2002

External links[edit]

42°42′32″N 78°34′57″W / 42.708809°N 78.582627°W / 42.708809; -78.582627