Cindy Pendergast to Retire After 34 Years

After working at the School for 34 years, Director of College Counselling Cynthia Pendergast recently announced her plans for retirement.

In an email sent to current juniors, Assistant Head of Academic Affairs Joseph Iuliano said, “her knowledge, experience, and dedication to her work throughout her tenure at the School have been true assets.”

Pendergast, who has six grandchildren, all of whom live in New York and New Jersey, is looking forward to spending more time with her loved ones.

“Also, my youngest daughter, Emily, who graduated here in 2004, is having her first baby in September,” Pendergast said. “She lives in Maine, so I will be helping her a lot. In addition, my son, Will, is opening a restaurant on Long Island and will need lots of help. I will be busy.”

At the same time, Pendergast already feels nostalgic about her time here.

“I will miss the people the most. Brimmer is a real community of people who genuinely care about one another,” Pendergast said. “Some of my favorite memories are the musicals and the concerts—our students are so talented, and I am always filled with pride when I see them on stage.”

Head of School Judith Guild praised Pendergast’s strength and adaptability.

“Mrs. Pendergast’s position has morphed and adjusted to the changes our country has experienced over the past thirty years more than nearly every other position at a school,” Guild said. “This has required her to learn from trusted colleagues, weigh the importance of change with the importance of tried and true traditions, and be thoughtful with each student’s future opportunities in a changing landscape of higher education.”

In addition to faculty, students expressed their appreciation for Pendergast’s commitment to their college processes.

Chloe Cochener ‘19 highlighted Pendergast’s continued support throughout senior year.

“Mrs. Pendergast was so important during my college process. She encouraged me to believe in myself and even acted like another parent at times,” Cochener said. “I’m really sad she won’t be here when I come back to visit, but I am so happy for her.”

Others feel similarly.

“Mrs. Pendergast was one of the most impactful Brimmer faculty members throughout my high school career,” Joshua Poresky ‘19 said. “She made the college process seamless and enjoyable, something I never thought could happen. She made my college counselling class the best course I’ve taken at Brimmer. More memories have been made in that room than any other.”

For his part, William Apostolica ‘20 worked with Pendergast for the spring of his junior year. “She has been very committed to my college process and I’m sad to see her go,” he said.

In light of Pendergast’s retirement, the School has promoted Anya Huston to Director of College Counselling and hired Lisa Summergrad as Associate Director of College Counselling.

Summergrad has experience working in undergraduate admissions and has a Bachelor of Arts from Haverford College and a Master of Education from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

With respect to the transition, Huston believes that it will be as seamless as possible. Current juniors assigned to Pendergast will be reassigned to Huston or Summergrad.

Parents of rising seniors are encouraged to attend a coffee with Summergrad on Friday, May 17 from 8:00-9:00 a.m., and students will also have the opportunity to meet with her that day.

Huston also urges students to meet with Summergrad over the summer and fall.

Huston said Pendergast’s desire to share her knowledge about many colleges has been “a wonderful learning experience for me as well as the students.”

Huston also said, “Although we are excited about the adventures that lie ahead for her, we will all miss her very much.”

Looking back on her time here, Pendergast shares her love of helping students find the right college for them. But after over three decades on the job, she has noticed some worrisome changes to the college admissions process.

“The biggest change over the years has been all of the hype about rankings and the pressure that parents feel to position their children for acceptance to a highly ranked college,” Pendergast said. “At the same time, colleges are under pressure to improve their ranking so they play games with the admission process that will raise their ‘score’ but does not necessarily benefit the experience of the student in the process.”

“Few careers are measured so carefully by acceptances and denials, from outside assessments and measurement, and with such intense anticipation,” Guild said. “It takes courage and strength to maneuver through idealism and pragmatism, and Mrs. Pendergast has done it well.”

Editors’ note: Cindy Pendergast will be celebrated during Alumni Day, scheduled for Saturday, May 18. Please contact Director of Alumni Affairs and Special Events Amanda Frank ’88 if you are interested in attending (AFrank@Brimmer.org). 

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