Masters School

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The Masters School
49 Clinton Ave
Dobbs Ferry, New York
United States
Coordinates41°00′39″N 73°52′14″W / 41.010943°N 73.870451°W / 41.010943; -73.870451Coordinates: 41°00′39″N 73°52′14″W / 41.010943°N 73.870451°W / 41.010943; -73.870451
TypePrivate, boarding
MottoDo It With Thy Might
FounderEliza B. Masters
ChairmanEdith Chapin
Head of schoolLaura Davis Danforth
Teaching staff109
EnrollmentUpper School: 510
Middle School: 171
International students20%
Average class size14
Student to teacher ratio8:1
Campus96 acres (390,000 m2)
Color(s)Purple, White
Athletics conferenceNEPSAC
Endowment$50 million
TuitionBoarding: $62,500
Day: $44,550
Middle School: $43,050

The Masters School (aka Masters), is a private, coeducational boarding school and day college preparatory school located in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Its 96-acre (390,000 m2) campus is located north of New York City in the Hudson Valley in Westchester County. It was founded as an all-girls private school in 1877 by Eliza Bailey Masters, and first admitted boys in 1996.


Early history[edit]

Eliza B. Masters, the school's founder and namesake.

The school was founded in 1877 by Eliza Bailey Masters as the ″Misses Masters' Boarding and Day School for Young Ladies and Children.″ Eliza Masters had been born in 1845 to a devout Methodist family. Never married, she was inspired by the loss of her brother, the teacher Jeremiah Wilbur Masters, to typhoid fever to start the school. Following her father's death in 1874, Eliza Masters founded the school at Wilde House, also called Kirk Knoll, near the school's present-day location. James Jennings McComb, a cotton magnate and philanthropist, moved to Dobbs Ferry in the 1880s to be closer to his children. He purchased a 23-acre parcel close to Wilde House from one Dr. Ryder, and commissioned a mansion, called Estherwood in honor of his second wife, Esther Wood, on it. (The mansion was completed in 1891.) At the time, the school, which had a burgeoning student body, was considering move to Irvington to the estate of Cyrus West Field. McComb convinced Eliza Masters to stay in Dobbs Ferry by purchasing 11 acres south of Estherwood, building First and Second Houses on them in 1883, and leasing them to the school for a nominal rent. The school's faculty and 75 students moved to McComb's estate in the fall of 1883. In 1888, McComb built a Third House as a school building with an assembly hall, classrooms, a gym, a studio, and a laboratory. A Fourth House, devoted to the study of domestic science, was constructed in 1891. After McComb's death in 1901, Eliza Masters purchased his estate for the equivalent of $12 million.

After Eliza Master's death in 1921, her sister, Sarah Wilbur Masters, succeeded her as headmistress, serving alongside Mary Comstock Strong. The School was incorporated in 1911 and Masters Hall, designed by Ralph Adams Cram, was completed in 1921. Many of the school's clubs, including the Missionary Society (today known as MISH), the Dobbs Athletic Association, Glee Club, and Phoenix (the school's acting society), came about during the early 20th century.

The school taught English, French, Latin, music, art, the Bible, moral philosophy, astronomy, botany, mathematics, domestic science, and etiquette. While it was secular, Masters had a religious tone; it catered exclusively to female students.[1]

Later years[edit]

In 1996, due to under-enrollment, the school became co-educational, opening itself to male students for the first time.[2]

Student body[edit]

The Masters School has over 670 students in grades 5-12. The school is co-educational with the exception of grades 6-8 in which most classes are separated by gender. As of February 2018, Masters students come from 15 states and 35 countries.[3] In the Upper School, 17% of students are international.[citation needed]


Over 70% of the faculty have advanced degrees. The average class size is 14 students.[4]


The school's wooded 96-acre campus is on a hilltop in Dobbs Ferry, a historic village with a sloping geography and waterfront on the Hudson River. A five-minute walk from the campus lookout over the Hudson brings students down to the heart of town, and a 40-minute train ride from there brings faculty and students to New York City.[citation needed]

The Dobbs Ferry Metro-North Railroad station is a 12-minute downhill walk from the school's campus. Coming from the station, the walk to the campus is a 16-minute walk due to the series of very steep hills.

Masters Hall, the main campus building

Located in the center of campus, two dormitories for boys and three dormitories for girls accommodate more than 150 upper school American and international students. The boys' dorms are named Thompson and Strong; the girls' dorms are named Ford, McCormack, and Cole.[citation needed]. Separated by a short hill, both sets of dorms have outdoor space with grills for use in the warmer months.

The campus includes Estherwood, a late 19th-century mansion that is the only châteauesque building in Westchester County. It and its carriage house are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It houses faculty in apartments on the upper floors, and the first floor and grounds offer a unique setting for school parties and programs. Student chamber ensembles perform in Estherwood and, each year, drama students present one-act plays in one of the mansion's rooms.


  • Masters Hall, which dates back to 1921, is the academic hub of the School. It was renovated in 1972 following a fire and again in 2005. The building contains the 30,000-volume Pittsburgh Library and McKnight Reading Room; Upper School academic classrooms with Harkness tables and ceiling-mounted projectors; a digital media lab, language lab, lecture hall, computer language lab, and administration and faculty offices.
  • Morris Hall is the school's science and technology center. The building houses rooms with Harkness tables and fully equipped science laboratories for teaching biology, physics, environmental science, chemistry, and one semester seminar style courses such as forensics; faculty offices; a special lab for independent research; and two dedicated labs for the middle school.
  • The Middle School building opened in January 2005. It houses fifteen classrooms; the Great Hall; common areas on each floor for informal meetings and socializing; an art classroom and kiln; and a music room with keyboards.
  • Cameron A. Mann Dining Hall is the school's rapidly ageing dining hall.[citation needed]
  • Claudia Boettcher Theater is the 450-seat theater connected to Masters Hall. It is also the school's gathering place where the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades and some 9th graders meet for morning meeting, while the overflow of the freshman class watch the meeting on livestream.
  • Strayer Hall houses one of the school's Gymnasium, weight room, Music Center, and Dance Studio.
  • The Art Studio is a two-story art studio adjacent to the theater. A digital media lab and darkroom are located on the other side of the building. It is connected to Masters Hall.
  • The Maureen Fonseca Center for Athletics and Arts, frequently referred to as the "FC," is named for former Head of School Dr. Maureen Fonseca, and opened in the fall of 2015. It is a 75,000 ft2 building featuring a fencing salon, a six-lane FAA and NEPSAC compliant swimming pool, four squash courts, a three lane indoor track, a gymnasium with a regulation basketball court, two practice basketball courts and two volleyball courts, a cardio room, trainers room with whirlpool for conditioning and therapy, two sets of locker rooms, art gallery, experimental theater, two dance studios, photography and video studio, media arts lab, various rehearsal spaces for artists, and the Davis cafe.

Part of the official music video for Michael Jackson's "Bad" was filmed on the Masters School campus.[citation needed]


The school offers the following sports each season:

Academics and curriculum[edit]

The minimum course load each year includes five major courses. Graduation requirements include four years of English, three years of a foreign language, three years of mathematics (through at least Trigonometry), two years of lab science, three years of history (including U.S. history), religion (a one-year minor), humanities minor in grade 9, visual or performing arts minor, public speaking, health, and four years of physical education or other athletic credit.

The school offers honors sections in the sciences, mathematics, and languages. Advanced Placement courses are offered in all of the academic departments.

Nearly all classes at Masters are designed around the Harkness method, a discussion-based teaching method designed to encourage active participation in education, and help students develop listening and speaking skills.[5] To facilitate this method, nearly all classrooms are fitted with a large ovular Harkness table of varying sizes depending on the room. All of the tables have pull out boards built into the table for administrating exams.

Tower is the student newspaper of The Masters School. It is published approximately seven times a year, including one satirical issue.

Arts and music[edit]

The Drama Department stages three productions each year—a dramatic play in the fall, a musical in the winter, and student-directed one-act plays in the spring. Members of Phoenix, the school's honorary drama society, stage their own productions throughout the year. Phoenix Coffee House offers "open mic" opportunities for performers, poets, and musicians in the community.
The music program offers classes and private lessons during the school day, one of the most popular being the school's chorus, known as Glee Club. Smaller A Capella groups are also popular. Students may participate in any of three groups: The Naturals, an all-male group; Dohters, all-female; and Dobbs 16, a coed group. Dobbs 16 has won competitions including the Northeast regional of the National Championship of High School A Capella 2005. The group toured China in the spring of 2008 and went on The Tyra Banks Show in fall 2009.[citation needed] The host of instrumental and vocal groups includes a community orchestra and a jazz ensemble, plus bands and combos that offer opportunities for musical expression.
Dobbs 16 competes at the National Championship of High School A Cappella in Allendale, New Jersey
The dance program offers classes during the day and three audition-only dance companies. Muse and Urban Connection perform modern/ballet and hip-hop, respectively. The Masters School Dance Company performs twice a year.

Notable alumni and faculty[edit]




  1. ^ "From Progressive to New Dealer: Frederic C. Howe and American Liberalism".
  2. ^ "Co-ed Masters School Draws Praise".
  3. ^ "The Masters School at a Glance". Masters School. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  4. ^ "Quick Facts".
  5. ^ "The Masters School: Academic Program".
  6. ^ CRISTINA KINON (August 27, 2008). "Yo, Simon. I can sing!". NY Daily News.
  7. ^,,20064146,00.html
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Shearer, Lloyd (October 11, 1964). "Alice Pearce: The Chinless Wonder". Reading Eagle. Retrieved September 27, 2014.
  11. ^ O'Connell, Joe (December 27, 2015). "Mary Scranton, wife of former Pa. governor, dead at 97". The Scranton Times-Tribune. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Grete Sultan, 99, a Pianist And Mentor to Cage, Is Dead". The New York Times. July 3, 2005.

External links[edit]