The Late Dr. Barry Chasen


A devoted member of the North Penn community, Dr. Barry Chasen spent the majority of his nearly 40 years in education and psychology in the North Penn School District (NPSD) with a friendly smile and an outstretched hand to anyone in need. Although not a North Penn alumnus himself, Barry's start with the district in 1970 marked the beginning of lasting and cherished story with the NPSD not only for Barry, but also his wife, children and the North Penn community.

Dr. Chasen completed his undergrad at Temple University in 1966, graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology. He continued his education at Temple University studying School Psychology and earned his Master's Degree in 1968 and Ed.D. in 1975.

Before landing at what would quickly become "home" for Barry at North Penn, he spent the early years of his career teaching elementary education at T. M. Peirce School in Philadelphia. In 1970, Barry took an internship with Dr. Jansen, the school psychologist for NPSD. A year later in 1971, Barry was hired as a school psychologist for various buildings throughout the district, a position which would eventually evolve into the sole psychologist at North Penn High School (NPHS) and covered a large realm of responsibilities. He ran groups in classes for children, listening to their stories, understanding their perspectives, laughing with them, and always keeping the goal of teaching them appropriate social skills.

As the respected and beloved school psychologist for NPHS for many years, Barry was readily trusted by students, families and all who worked well with him to be confidential, supportive, understanding and candid in his assessment of each person's situation and the next steps that were needed for progress to occur. Always personable and affable, Barry was described by former colleague and NPHS Principal Burt Hynes as "an outstanding listener whose empathy for others was always evident in his words and through his inclusive actions."

Much of Barry's work was focused on increasing each individual's self-esteem as a means of encouraging wellness. Barry developed countless support groups and initiatives to support this focus and cater to the needs of the students and families at North Penn. During his tenure, Barry organized and lead student groups focused on grief support for those who were suffering the loss of friends or family. He took a proactive approach to concerns about suicide prevention by formally publicizing the warning signs and providing intervention resources for supporting students. Barry developed and annually updated a resource brochure called "Help Is Available" for staff and student use. This brochure listed specific resource agencies and contact phone numbers for hotlines aimed at countering drug/alcohol abuse, child abuse, suicidal ideation and any social issues pertinent to teenage youth. Barry also advocated and was instrumental in the development of a vibrant Student Assistance Program (SAP) as an intervention and support program for students and families facing drug/alcohol issues, a program that is still in place today.

Barry viewed his role as school psychologist at North Penn to be accessible and supportive for both the students as well as the staff. Always ready with a smile or laughter, he brightened many a person's day. In an effort to bring the large NPHS staff closer, he used the showcase outside of room E-019 to welcome and highlight the faces, educational backgrounds and the hobbies and interests of new staff as a means of quickly connecting them to the larger family in the building. In the years before the advent of email as a communication tool, Barry authored an internal quarterly newsletter entitled "Life's Joys and Challenges" to communicate marriages, births, graduations and achievements of staff.

"Dr. Chasen's accomplishments are best spoken for when reminiscing with the many people he's worked with over the years," said former colleague Steve Christman. "He was extremely knowledgeable, personable and had a great sense of humor. People trusted Barry and respected his opinions. He was a real 'go to' guy for many staff members."

As a member of the leadership team, Barry provided an inclusive and caring perspective that always guided team thinking to reach decisions that were fair for all who were impacted by the decisions.

Barry's commitment to the wellbeing of each and every student at NPHS was unwavering. He supported every student club and activity in their efforts to engage students in positive interactions with adults and peers. Barry especially loved school activities that engaged large numbers of students or celebrated student academic achievement. He was first in line to chaperone class trips and never missed a senior prom. "It was really special to him," said Barry's wife, Carole, in reference to the prom.

Barry looked forward with as much anticipation as the students to the annual Special Olympics competition in the NPHS Crawford Stadium because it showcased the skills and achievements of students who often had to work extra hard to achieve success.

His enthusiasm for the life of NPHS and student success was clearly evidenced by his commitment to regular attendance at athletic events, particularly football, basketball and wrestling. "He was really supportive of the teams and was always joking around with the coaches," Carole recalled.

Barry could always be found in the stands of Crawford Stadium on Friday nights alongside his wife Carole and their children, Mark and Jill, supporting the North Penn Knights Football team. "It was always very important to Barry and me that we attended football games as a family," said Carole.

North Penn pride runs deep through the Chasen family, as Carole was a special education teacher in the district and both Mark and Jill Chasen spent all 13 years of schooling in the North Penn School District. Mark and Jill attended Gwyn-Nor Elementary School, Pennbrook Middle School and NPHS, graduating in 1988 and 1990 respectively.

Mark and Jill were extremely proud that their father worked at their school, Carole explained. Often referring to him as "Doc," both in school and at their home, Mark and Jill's friends felt a sense of comfort around Barry, as did the many other students at NPHS whom Barry interacted with. "Barry just adored the kids," said Carole. "He used to wake up every morning and say that his life was so good because he truly looked forward to going to work. He loved the district, he loved his career, he loved the kids and the kids loved him."

Aside from Barry's work in the NPSD, he was an active member of his synagogue, Congregation Beth Or in Maple Glen, PA. Here, he served in many roles including President of the Brotherhood, a group that supports all facets of the synagogue and provides community outreach. Barry coached community basketball and baseball for his son, Mark. For several years Barry taught Statistics at Gwynedd Mercy College.

Barry loved sports. He played golf, including being a member of the North Penn School District's golf league. Barry played golf for close to 40 years and although his score really never improved he was passionate about it. Golfers, far better than he, enjoyed golfing with him just because he was so happy and a pleasure to be with. With many people's love and support, Barry was able to golf until shortly before he died.

Following Barry's retirement from NPHS in 2004, he spent the last nine years of his life volunteering in the North Penn community, particularly in the area of education. Barry visited the Abramson Center for Jewish Life in Horsham, PA on a weekly basis teaching computer skills to residents, tutored students at Maple Glen Elementary School in the Upper Dublin School District and participated in a literacy program teaching adults in the North Penn community how to read. Aside from education, Barry volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and also participated in a program that provided transportation to local community members to and from cancer treatments, an initiative that was very near and dear to his heart. His greatest joy was the close relationship he had with each of his grandchildren Josh, Scott and Raya.

Carole shared that Barry was so gratified watching the kids who he worried weren't going to make it pull it together and find success and happiness, as they received their diplomas at North Penn's graduation. He had dear friends on the staff at North Penn who like Barry cared deeply about the students, who collaborated together to make things work for their kids and who enjoyed laughter. Barry's lasting impact and mutual love for his students was evident from the dozens of letters from former students that Carole received after his passing in July of 2014.

"Barry's sense of humor coupled with his level-headed approach in all matters enabled him to make sound and reasonable recommendations throughout his professional career, said Burt Hynes. "His caring wisdom endeared him to the entire North Penn community."