“Lea has dedicated more than two decades of her life to Darlington School, and we are better for it,” Headmaster Tom Whitworth said. “Her passion and enthusiasm for the Lower School are reasons many families choose Darlington. She truly believes in her colleagues, in our students, and in what we are able to accomplish together at this special place.”
Duncan began working in Darlington’s Admission Office in January 1989 when her older son Bailey was in second grade. It was a change of pace from her previous work as a licensed medical technologist, and — as the wife of a 1969 alumnus — she looked forward to the opportunity to share with families the many benefits of a Darlington education.
“At the time, I was staying at home with our younger son,” she said. “Lisa Schlenk, then director of admission, called me up right after Christmas to see if I might be interested in the job. As a parent, I was already pretty much a fixture at the Lower School, so I think they just decided to put me on the payroll.”
Duncan said she started part time with her office at a three-corner table in the secretary’s office.
“It’s been a great lesson for me that you’ve got to be open,” she said. “You may think you know where you’re headed but you’ve got to be open to other possibilities and just kind of relax and go where you’re led.”
During the years Duncan has had the opportunity to see hundreds of students, including her own two children, make the journey from Lower School to commencement. The other gratifying thing, Duncan said, has been the opportunity to work with incredible colleagues during the past 24 years.
“I have been very blessed to work with wonderful co-workers and administrators. My best friends are here, and I’ll absolutely miss seeing them every day,” she said. “It’s amazing to see how our teachers relate to students in such creative ways. Even the teachers who have been here for a while reinvent themselves every single year. It’s heartwarming to see the amount of attention and pride our teachers have in what they do. They love these children and it’s so evident every day.”
With one son in North Carolina and the other in El Salvador, the Duncans look forward to slowing down a little and spending more time with family.
“Family is very important to us and we plan on seeing everyone a whole lot more,” she said. “After 13 years in the medical field and 24 here, I’m worn out. I think it’s time to be open for what opportunities might be out there and I’m ready to see what’s next.”
However, she added that retirement is definitely going to be bittersweet.
“It’s the bitterest of the bitter and the sweetest of the sweet, but I truly feel like this is my time,” she said. “Darlington hasn’t been a job for me; it’s been 24 years of loving experience. People always tell you to find what you love and do it, and fortunately it found me. I could tell a million stories. It’s been a full, unbelievably wonderful ride — more than I ever could have dreamed or hoped for. It’s the epitome of having an avocation for your vocation. My family will always be a part of Darlington, and Darlington a part of us.”