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Education

Your Hockaday Student May Have Been Taught By a Spy

Tracy Walder is an author, too.
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Tracy Walder's memoir about her time in CIA and FBI, The Unexpected Spy, was published in February, Billy Surface

I first met Tracy Walder late in 2018, not long after it had been announced that Ellen Pompeo, Dr. Meredith Grey, the Grey from Grey’s Anatomy, had optioned her book — then titled The Sorority Girl Who Saved Your Life — with plans to turn it into a series for ABC. That’s what caused me to send her an email, which she promptly and very politely replied to. We were at a Starbucks not far from Hockaday’s North Dallas campus within a few days, so she could tell me how she got from a sorority house at USC to interrogating suspected chemical terrorists in the Middle East within a few years.

I will admit that I was surprised by who I found sitting at a window table. I probably have watched too many Mission: Impossible movies and read too many spy thrillers and, honestly, probably daydreamed too often to be able to divorce my preconceived ideas about what a former CIA agent should look like, what it would be like to meet one, from the reality of it. If you were witnessing our interview, I might have seemed more like a spy or former spy, and not because I’m a man. Mostly because I was wearing a pea coat and my expression trends toward unapproachable. But that’s why I would be a bad spy.

Tracy’s book (now titled The Unexpected Spy) wasn’t finished at the time. Which was better, because I got the stories about her time in the CIA — and later, and briefly, and unhappily, the FBI — without knowing them all in advance. Now that I have read it, what makes the book, set to be published February 25, remarkable to me, is the stories still are extremely interesting, still have drama, maybe even more so, even though I had heard them all. Some of them are here in my profile of her for the February issue of D.

It’s an important book for any young women thinking about foreign service, and that perfectly dovetails with Tracy’s efforts to encourage that, both at Hockaday and with the nonprofit Girl Security.

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