NYMA was founded in 1889 by Charles Jefferson Wright, a Civil War veteran and former school teacher from New Hampshire who believed that a military structure provided the best environment for academic achievement, a philosophy to which the school still adheres.
Wright's successor, Sebastian Jones, presided over the Academy from 1894-1922, guiding it during its most critical period of growth from a young and small institution of 48 cadets, through a disastrous fire in 1910, and throughout an extensive reconstruction program. NYMA developed into one of the best known military schools for young men in the United States.
Successive superintendents continued the groundwork laid by Wright and Jones in the early years with the construction of additional facilities, the expansion of the student body, and an emphasis on teaching the principles of leadership through the Junior Reserve Officer Training Program.
In 1975, the Academy became a coeducational institution, admitting young women for the first time in the school's history.
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