2017-07-26 / Obituaries

Gus Trowbridge

Gus Trowbridge, the founder of Manhattan Country School passed away on July 9. He was 82.

Trowbridge was a visionary who was deeply affected by the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. In 1965, at 31 years old and disenchanted with the segregation of education in New York City schools, Gus left his job teaching English to create a school where children from all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds could learn together. He and his wife, Marty, gathered together a group consisting of religious leaders, researchers in education and psychology, and advocates for racially integrated schools. After a year of planning, Manhattan Country School opened its doors in September 1966.

Trowbridge graduated high school from The Putney School in Vermont. In addition to a vigorous academic program, Putney emphasizes the value of physical work and its importance to a community. Trowbridge frequently told the story of the day, as an eleventh grader, a classmate of his was called out of Math class. It was his job at that time to keep the Headmaster’s wood box full. He had failed to do it. Having no wood to put in the wood stove in his office, the Headmaster was cold. So, Math lessons were going to have to wait while the student made sure that a basic human need, warmth, was met.

These lessons about the value of physical labor and the importance of doing a job well stayed with Gus. He wanted them to be part of the education for the students at his new school. The name—Manhattan Country School—came from his desire to have a school in New York City that provided some type of a rural experience for its students.

In 1968, Manhattan Country School purchased the Slauson Farm on New Kingston Mountain Road in the Town of Roxbury to be its country campus. The property was an ideal place to develop the school’s farm program. The farmhouse was large enough to be used for sleeping and eating. There was a large barn which offered the opportunity for raising a variety of animals. And there was plenty of acreage where the children could play and explore. For the past fifty years, hundreds of children from New York City have spent time at the Farm. They have learned to live together, to work together, to cook, to do farm chores like hand milking a cow and to appreciate natural environments. The Farm is a place where race and economic status are not relevant. What is relevant is the contribution that each person makes to the well-being of the community.

Over the years, Farm Directors have included Jim Perkins, Georgene Gardener, Jim Plummer, Walter Meade, Ginny Scheer, Ed Fersch and John McDaniel. Having begun modestly with a few farm animals and small garden, the farm has grown to its current program which includes a textile studio, nature lab, greenhouse, recreation building, sap house, chicken house and a solar panel system. The school has a longstanding exchange program with Roxbury Central School where each year children in the two schools’ 4th grade classes become pen-pals and share time together at the Farm and in New York City.

In addition to his school family, Trowbridge is survived by his wife, Marty, children Mary, Katharine and Stephen and their spouses Liam and Lisa; grandchildren Sarah, Emily, James, Sophie, Caroline and Jack and is brother-in-law Timothy Dwight, wife Susanne and family. .The family has established the following Legacy.com site: memorialwebsites.legacy.com/GusTrowbridge and welcomes the community to visit and post memories of Gus.

Trowbridge retired from Manhattan Country School in 1997. His vision of a school that represents the racial and economic diversity of New York City and that instills in its students an understanding of the value of physical labor has become a reality.

Memorial gifts may be directed to The Gus & Marty Trowbridge Forum - a community dialogue on diversity and equity in education. Designed to perpetuate the model of education that Gus and Marty established when they founded Manhattan Country School in 1966. Checks may be made payable to: “MCS - Trowbridge Forum” and mailed to: Manhattan Country School, 150 West 85th Street, New York, NY 10024, Attn: Mary Trowbridge

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