Mrs. Debbie Pitcairn, Director of College Counseling and Registrar, is known for her expert guidance when it comes to the college admissions process. She has been sharing this knowledge and helping students find their perfect college fit for six years.
“I’m in charge of scheduling all of our students,” said Mrs. Pitcairn. “When I’m doing that, I am keeping in mind their applications to college and their goals and interests. I try to get them the strongest curriculum that they can be successful at and still suits their interests. I advise the students. I sit with them and their parents and talk about the schedules and help them think about looking for colleges that fit them.”
What most may not know about Mrs. Pitcairn was her onetime career working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
It all started with an impending trip to Russia and parents who wanted their 15-year-old daughter to do a little reading about the country before departing on this exciting journey.
Mrs. Pitcairn diligently read The Russians by Hedrick Smith and promptly fell in love with the country. The trip and the research ultimately guided her on her collegiate and professional journey.
“I was fascinated and obsessed with all things Russia,” said Mrs. Pitcairn. “I became fascinated with the culture and the industry.”
As a student at Yale University, Mrs. Pitcairn continued her pursuit of becoming an Ambassador to Russia, majoring in Political Science and International Affairs.
“I worked while I was in college, I did theater – stage managing and light designing, and I volunteered in a hospital,” said Mrs. Pitcairn.
“In college, I was very directed and really never swayed from what I wanted to do. I wanted to be an expert on Russia,” she said.
Mrs. Pitcairn’s hard work through her college years paid off when was hired as a Soviet Analyst for the CIA when she was just 22 years old.
“I got to be a Russian expert,” Mrs. Pitcairn said.
After two years with the CIA, she decided to stay home with her growing family, but that did not prevent her from becoming involved in multiple volunteer organizations.
Then, in 1998, when her children were in Kindergarten, 2nd and 4th grades, she discovered Academy at the Lakes.
“(School founder) Richard Wendlek’s philosophy of trying to educate the whole person, the character and the values, a very individualized and personal approach, and a small and warm environment was what drew me to Academy. I also felt that the academics were strong here.”
Mrs. Pitcairn showed her love for the school by serving as the president of the Parents’ Association for a year, and she was part of the committee that created the high school.
When a position opened up for Administrative Assistant for 5th – 12th Grade in 2004, Mrs. Pitcairn jumped at the opportunity. Since then, her position has evolved to her current role.
Mrs. Pitcairn now has three Academy graduates of her own, all of whom are successful and carry the knowledge and experiences that the school provided for them.
“I think the school really gave all of my children a good sense of confidence, strength, and leadership,” said Mrs. Pitcairn.
Her daughter, Kelsey ’07, is an English teacher; her youngest son, Jason ’11, recently graduated from Gettysburg College; and her eldest son, Daniel ’09, attends the Georgetown School of Foreign Service … and he’s studying Russia.
“He’s following in Mommy’s footsteps,” Mrs. Pitcairn said with a smile.
Kind of Music: Many kinds, including classic rock, jazz singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Sam Cooke, Nora Jones, Jason Mraz. I have a huge love of a cappella music.
Food: I’m a cook and an eater! I cook and eat many kinds of ethnic foods. I love all kinds of vegetables and spices.
Superhero: Batman. He’s a dark hero – even though he’s flawed and hurting, he does the right thing.
Finish the Sentence
My favorite subject in school was … history
When I was in 11th grade, I wanted to be … the Ambassador to Russia.
I love when my students … learn about a college they didn’t know about, find it is a good match for them and get enthusiastic about going there. When they come back from a college visit with their eyes lit up and excitement in their voice because they can now envision themselves at college and look forward to it with eagerness.
I love working at Academy at the Lakes because … I can form relationships with students and parents in which I can really get to know a student and what their goals and needs are. It is very gratifying and rewarding to be able to really help a student find the right way toward their future.
When I am not at school, I like to … read, cook, travel, visit family.
The best advice anyone ever gave me was … My dad once told me when I was in over my head sophomore year in college: “You were smart enough to get yourself into this; you’re smart enough to get yourself out.” It was a call to stop complaining and feeling sorry for myself and a statement of confidence that I could solve the problem – myself. Whenever I start feeling overwhelmed, I remember that advice and try to switch to problem-solving mode, instead of whining and stressing.
In the movie of your life, what actor would you want to play you and what would the movie be called?
Well, if I had my pick, I would pick Meryl Streep. It could be called: Finding Meaning. I guess my path and efforts in life have to do with finding meaningful ways to live and connect with others. It would be very boring!
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Healing powers? Make Peace powers?
If you could have any artist (alive or dead) draw a picture of you, who would you choose?
Rembrandt. His portraits have a lot of humanity and show a lot of feeling and understanding of his subject. They are very realistic, however, so it might not be the most flattering of likenesses!
If you could go back in time, where would you go and what would you do?
I’d go back to England in the 1800’s. I’d be a wealthy woman on a beautiful country estate in the English countryside and go to London during the social season and attend all the balls!