Chris Gurry Used Hockey and History to Find the “Sweet Spot” of Teaching

After 34 years as an Instructor in History, Coach and house counselor to students at Andover, Chris Gurry ’66 closed the 38-year Andover chapter of his life just before March break when he concluded his last class in the basement classroom of Samuel Phillips Hall. Gurry was on sabbatical for the Spring Term.

After attending Andover from 1961 to 1966, Gurry returned to Andover in 1980 to become a full-time history teacher. While at Andover, he has been a house counselor in Taylor Hall and Stearns House and has coached football, lacrosse, hockey and golf.

Gurry loved connecting with students, whether in the classroom, on the field or in a dorm environment. His history classes were known for finding the “sweet spot” for teaching for each student, according to Matthew Hession, Instructor in History and Social Science.

Gurry said, “It really is fun being around bright, motivated kids. I’m on sabbatical this term, and so even now I sort of miss the classroom…. That’s what kept me so interested, and focused, and excited about being here for 40 years.”

“[His leaving] is sometimes hard for us, because all we really wanted was to hear more from him. Learning from his wealth of knowledge about the birth of the American democracy was inspiring. Listening to him talk about the civil rights movement and how it affected him during college was incredible…His class meant so much to me. I looked forward to it every morning,” said Iman Masmoudi ’14.

Gurry especially enjoyed his International Relations class, a popular Senior elective that spurred active class discussion.

“I’d like to believe that the best parts of my classes are the discussions. I don’t like to lecture, and I just like for [students] to be able to express their opinions,” said Gurry.
His students, with his guidance, he said, are able to bring the entire world into his small classroom.

“We’re in this little room, and the desks are all around, so you can’t hide, and you can’t hide from your peers, and so it really does create an intimate atmosphere that really creates great discussions,” he said.

Hession said, “What I admire most about [Gurry’s] teaching has been his ability to never lose sight of that student experience. He can show the complexity of historical forces and also make things clear when they need to be.”

“He really understood the inner-workings of a Phillips Academy student’s mind, and was able to use this understanding to perfectly craft his lectures each day,” said Noah Hornik ’15. “Between his stories of golfing with George W. Bush, he displayed a breadth of knowledge greater than any teacher I have ever experienced, and provided a truly enlightening experience in American History.”

Beyond the classroom, Gurry engaged with students while coaching Boys Varsity Hockey. While at Andover and Harvard, Gurry played on varsity-level hockey teams as well.
“Coaching, in a way, is almost more art than science, in that what works for one team may not work for another team. You have to be very conscience of who your players are, what their personalities are. In a way, you have to adjust what you do given your strengths and weaknesses and who the individuals are,” he said in a previous article in _The Phillipian_.

Gurry took a sabbatical this Spring to further his own education by attending and participating in a year-long colloquium around the question “Is America over and can it be fixed?”

“[My sabbatical] will be the capstone of my career and I hope that it will give me new insights with international relations. It’s going to be on the cutting edge of what is being taught at the graduate school level,” said Gurry of his sabbatical, according to a previous article in _The Phillipian_.

Following the completion of the colloquium, Gurry will retire in Wells, Maine.