The Robert Louis Stevenson School opened in 1908. Little is known with certainty of the founding purpose except that it was originally a school for girls and was a progressive alternative to the Scoville School (Est. 1882) from which it was derived. The school was named for Robert Louis Stevenson in homage to his work which explored themes such as non-conformity, independent thinking and the duality of all things human.
In the 1920’s, the school flourished under the auspices of Headmaster Dr. William J. Whitney and in 1936 it became a progressive college preparatory school for girls under the direction of Dr. Annette T. Rubenstein. Rubinstein hired several blacklisted public school teachers which aroused the attention of the House Committee of un-American Activities. The Veterans Administration threatened to cut off funding, and the State threatened to withdraw the school’s charter, if Dr. Rubenstein did not resign as principal. She stepped down in June 1952 and her brother, Leo Rhodes, took over as Headmaster.
Leo and his wife Lucille recognized many bright teens were not thriving in high schools of the time. The Rhodes’ wanted to redefine Stevenson as a different kind of school that could reach these adolescents. They researched educational principles, school models and the growing body of psychological knowledge to search for a program that would work. After two years of consultation with experts in innovative education (public, independent, remedial, and special), adolescent development, psychology and psychiatry, Leo and Lucille relaunched Stevenson to provide a college preparatory program that offered a rigorous academic program with the therapeutic support that would ensure success.
With Leo’s passing in 1968, Lucille became Director, and continued to refine all aspects of the program. She was succeeded by Bud Henrichsen, who served as Headmaster from 1975 to 2010. Under Henrichsen’s strong leadership, Stevenson continued to develop and adapt to meet the needs of generations of students. A year after Bud’s retirement, long-time CFO Doug Herron assumed the role of Head of School, continuing his lifetime of service to Stevenson’s faculty, students, and families.
Stevenson is currently helmed by veteran NYC independent school leader Bob Cunningham, who after a few months’ interim appointment was named Head of School in 2015. With Bob’s appointment, Stevenson has reaffirmed our commitment to serve students who thrive in a college preparatory environment where social-emotional support is central to the culture and programs of the school.