Masters community will “MISH” Atlee and Goulian


Courtesy of Joe Vericker of PhotoBureau Inc.

Emma Luis and Alexandra Bentzien

Beside the bustling city of Philadelphia sits a small suburb surrounded by revamped steel mills and farms named of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Phoenixville is the soon to be new home of two very familiar Masters faces, Amy Atlee and Chris Goulian, who will be departing Masters after a total of 32 and 24 years, respectively.

Atlee, Director of Community Service, and Goulian, Upper School Academic Dean, have been faculty members longer than any current student at Masters has been alive. Goulian and Atlee will be moving to Phoenixville, where according to Atlee, they hope to “rewire for a year”, and spend more time together.

Though Goulian has been working at Masters since 1993, he has been acquainted with Masters since he started dating Atlee in 1989, marking a twenty-eight year relationship with the school.  

Goulian started out as an English teacher, teaching 10th and 12th grade English, AP English Literature, and even a class on Film Studies.  In 1999, he took on the role of Masters’ Academic Dean after the school launched a search to fill the open position.  “I felt I understood both the needs of faculty and students.  I had a pretty good imagination in terms of what possibilities the school could handle and the potential for the academic program.” Goulian said.   Goulian’s job as Academic Dean is often associated with building schedules for students and teachers, the school’s calendar and managing the course placement process.  However, his work entails much more than this.  For the past eighteen years, Goulian has also worked closely with the department chairs to invent, write and revise curriculums for all courses and fit them together in a way that is “meaningful, logical, and practical.”  

“I’m a good organizer,” Goulian said of the reason he applied for his current position.  His organizational skills are apparent in his office space, proven by the pencils on his desk, which are perfectly lined up, and the pictures which hang on the wall in a neat order; even loose papers are stacked neatly behind his desk.  

His organization is also evident as a passionate collector: according to Ellen Cowhey, Advisor to Tower, Goulian has kept every single issue of the Masters newspaper; he also has copies of all Dance Company performance programs, still without any creases.  Among the list of collector’s items includes what he calls his “vintage hat” hanging from the corner of his office bookshelf, a red baseball cap reading “PHI.”

But the many Founder’s Days have not been what Goulian recalls as some of his most outstanding memories at Masters.  In his first year, as an English teacher, Goulian was particularly struck that his class dressed up for their final exam as characters from literature they’d read during the year.  Despite his long tenure as Academic Dean, Goulian said, “I was an English teacher at first; I think I still am by trade and at heart.” Behind his desk are two boxes of crayons, which he still uses, to serve as both a reminder and a metaphor for literature and life.  On the first day of school, he would give his students a page from a coloring book and ask them to color it in, and at the end have the students discuss their different images.  “As with literature, a coloring book is a just a collection of black ink on white pages; the reader has to appreciate the power they have as the one who colors in and assesses the meaning of the text.”

For Goulian, it is the people who surround him that have made his job so special. “I’ve been here for twenty-two years, and working and living here for twenty four.  The various relationships I’ve built with students and faculty over the years have been really special, and I’ve stayed in touch with many of them,” he said, who carefully tracks the progress of all students who come through Masters as part of his role as Academic Dean.  

Through it all, Goulian hopes he will be remembered as someone capable of, “managing and balancing expectations in a realistic way and reaching compromise.”  

“Sometimes it’s been an arduous job, but it’s important to be faithful and fair to the past while also farseeing and proactive in the future.  I think the hardest thing is helping teachers, parents and students to see beyond the initial disappointment, especially when you have people with new ideas, who are confident and want to try new things.”  

When his work gets difficult, Goulian keeps pictures of Atlee nearby as a reminder of her unwavering support of him.  The two first met in college in 1981 and started dating after Goulian returned from the Peace Corps in Africa, which Goulian considers “the most meaningful work [he’s] ever done.”  Goulian also uses prayer to “stay sane” and enjoys reading poetry every day, as well as watching television.

“I love watching television; it is one of my many passions,” Goulian said, a fan of shows like Modern Family, the original Star Trek and Seinfeld, and even Dancing with the Stars, which he and Atlee, “get a kick out of.”  

Courtesy of Joe Vericker of PhotoBureau Inc.

For Atlee, this year marked her 32nd year at Masters. As a young 22 year old and a recent college graduate, Atlee had applied for a job at Masters, then an all-girls school. Starting as the year-round gymnastics coach, anthropology teacher, dorm parent and club advisor, Atlee quickly became an integral part of the school community.

Atlee immediately knew Masters was the right place for her after seeing the beautiful Hudson River. Ever since that day, Atlee has claimed Masters as her home, and setup shop in the dorms. “Since this was my first job out of college, and I was the youngest faculty member at the time, Masters really helped me to grow, and has been my home and family ever since,” Atlee said.

Atlee then moved on to the Admissions office, until becoming the Director of Community Service for her remaining 20 years. “I’ve always found service learning to be my true passion,” Atlee said. “When Masters offered me the job of Director of Community Service, it was everything I was passionate about all in one; it was exciting for me.” She added.

Atlee and Goulian are both hoping for time to unwind and find new things in life, which they believe Phoenixville will be able to offer them. “As the year came to an end, Chris [Goulian] and I did some reflecting and we decided it was a good time for change. This year was a bit of wakeup call, in terms of health issues and soul searching, it forced us to rethink a few things.” Atlee said. “For us, we are both in midlife, and it’s a great time to think about being creative, passionate, and purposeful in new ways and exploring what else we have to offer to ourselves and others.” Atlee added.  “Masters has long been my home, and I’ve loved it.  I get a little emotional talking about it these days, it’s going to be a challenging transition, but a good one.  Embracing uncertainty is hard, but it does open you up to new possibilities and ways of being in the world.  We’re not retiring, we’re rewiring!”