Skip To Main Content

History & Philosophy

The Gow School has led the way in educating students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities since 1926. That's when Peter Gow, Jr., founded the school in a visionary effort to rethink the learning process. After 20 years of teaching at Choate Rosemary Hall, Nichols School, and The Park School, he had become concerned that so many intelligent students were encountering academic difficulties, especially with print language. Gow theorized that the key to success lay in small classes and intensive drill. He moved his family to South Wales and converted the farm where he had run a summer camp into a boarding school for boys.

Our History

Shortly after the school opened, Gow met Dr. Samuel T. Orton, the pioneering neurologist whose research pointed to a phonetic approach to educating those suffering from "specific language disabilities." Through thousands of hours of teaching and experimentation, Gow developed the Reconstructive Language (RL) program, similar to the Orton-Gillingham method and still used at the school to great effect.

Over time, The Gow School has continued to evolve and innovate. The campus has expanded from one Main Building--a converted horse barn--to more than 30 buildings. In 1990 the coed Gow School Summer Program began, and in January of 2012 the School made the decision to become coed offering day and boarding options. Nevertheless, RL remains the foundation of our curriculum, kept current with the latest technology and validated by ongoing research. A growing cadre of loyal and grateful alumni, with a wealth of success stories, speaks to the success of Peter Gow, Jr.’s, dream.

old barn
1922

Peter Gow, Jr. purchased an old horse barn in South Wales, NY and opened a summer camp for boys.

main building with flag
1926

The Gow School opens for boys struggling with dyslexia.

1930

The Science Lab, now Admissions Building, was built.

student outside of hill house
1940

Cornwall and Hill House were purchased and converted into dormitories. 

student on ski tow
1941

The ski tow began being built. 

headshot of norm howard
1956

Norm Howard was named Gow's second Headmaster.

1957

Ellis Dormitory was built to meet Gow's expanding enrollment. 

1958

The School newspaper, "The Govian" was created.

1961

The Dining Hall, now STAR building, and Templeton Dormitory were build.

1976

David Gow was named Gow's third Headmaster.

1977

The Blizzard of '77 hit campus. The Gow School could not close. Due to the severity of the storm, students could not leave campus, a helicopter made a landing on campus delivering food and supplies. 

1978

The Library building opened.

1979

The Bell Tower was built.

1980

The Old Science Building, now Admissions Office, was moved from near the Cazenovia Creek to up by the entrance of the main driveway.

1985

Computers arrive on campus. 

1986

The Gow School hosts their first Winter Carnival, a now long-standing tradition for Govians.

1986

Orton Hall opens. 

1988

The Raven becomes the schools official mascot. 

1989

Whitcomb, Gow's largest dormitory, opens.

bill adams portrait
1990

Bill Adams becomes the new Headmaster.

campers jumping
1990

The Gow School Summer Program opens.

headmaster house
1990

The McIvain Headmaster House was built. 

rowing team
1996

The Gow rowing team was formed under the leadership of Doug Cotter '97, P'19, '23.

1997

Bill Adams retires as Headmaster.

bill patterson headshot
1997

Bill Patterson becomes the fifth Headmaster of The Gow School. 

wolbach
1997

The Wolbach Water Treatment Facility (now science center) was built.

1999

Warner Dormitory opens.

2001

The Gow School turned 75.

2001

The 50,000 square foot Gow Center athletic facility was completed.

2004

Mr. M. Bradley Rogers joins The Gow School as the 6th Headmaster.

2005

The Thompson Gymnasium was repurposed into the Reid Art Center

2009

The Donald M. Weston '42 Dining Hall opened.

2012

The Gow School goes coed, expanding programs to serve all deserving boys and girls. 

2013

The old dining hall is converted into Gow's state-of-the-art Robotics and Engineering Lab. 

2016

Rogers-Ivie Dormitory was completed.

Take the Next Steps

Request Information

teacher helping student in RL

Work at Gow

students walking in fall leaves

Donate to Gow