By ANTHONY SPAULDING
Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School
Editor's Note: Throughout the year, Pope John XXIII Regional High School will feature alumni who have excelled in life since graduating and have represented our school with tremendous pride. In this new series, called "Lion Pride," we take a look at 1984 graduate David Beach.
SPARTA — David Beach admits that his days at Pope John XXIII Regional High School were far from perfect.
“I was no angel when I was in school,” the 1984 graduate said during a visit to his alma mater on Thursday. “I wasn’t the worst kid, but I wasn’t the best kid.”
While he may not have been Pope John’s picture-perfect student at the time, Beach has certainly been a guardian angel over his alma mater — and the entire country — over the last 30 years while serving as a U.S. Secret Service agent. Currently, Beach is the Special Agent in Charge of the New York field office of the U.S. Secret Service.
While he has done virtually everything from protecting U.S. Presidents and world leaders to investigating crimes on domestic and foreign soils, Beach believes he would not have been an agent if it weren’t for the people he met and the experiences he went through at Pope John.
“The thing about Pope John is Pope John is a family,” Beach said. “What you learn from a values perspective that comes from your own family, Pope John reinforces. What values you don’t learn from your family, Pope John teaches you. From a character-building standpoint, it did a lot to shape me as an adult.”
Beach was a part of the Pope John family from a young age. After all, his three older brothers, Joe, Mike and Jim, and his younger brother, Bob, all graduated from the school.
When he was going through the school from 1980-84, Beach felt teachers and coaches, particularly Father McHugh, Vic Paternostro (head football coach), Doug Durling (English teacher/assistant baseball coach) and Frank Setlock (Biology teacher/head track and field coach), played big parts in reinforcing and teaching him life lessons of hard work and dedication that he needed at the time.
“Coach Paternostro was probably one of the largest influences, if not the largest, next to my father,” Beach said. “Doug Durling did so much to teach me not only in English, but in baseball and in life. Frank Setlock was one of the best teachers, if not the best, I ever had. And Father McHugh, he was instrumental in shaping the whole culture of the school. He was great in helping me stay out of trouble. He gave me a second chance when other people may not have."
These people gave Beach the confidence to do well in the classroom and competing on the athletic fields for football, baseball and track and field. Out of the three sports, he excelled in football.
In football, he was an All-State selection at running back after leading Pope John to three straight Parochial B North state championships from 1981-83 and to an impressive 38-4 record in four years. As a senior, he was a key factor in the Lions' 11-0 record, as he rushed for a school and conference record 1,800 yards, while also setting school and conference records by scoring 234 points — records that lasted for more than 10 years after his graduation.
As a result, Beach earned the opportunity to continue his academic and football careers at the Bucknell University for the next four years. During his time at Bucknell, Beach suffered multiple knee injuries that required three surgeries and wound up forcing him to give up his career on the gridiron.
It was also during this period that he wasn’t sure what he was going to do with his life, even though he was going to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering.
Luckily, Beach’s connection with Paternostro led to an interview for a job with the Secret Service.
“I was fortunate because there was a Secret Service agent who happened to live in Sparta,” Beach said. “He would watch me play football. He kept in contact with Coach Paternostro for some time and he would keep tabs on me as far as when I was graduating from college. I was set to go to law school and Coach kept telling me to call this guy. Finally, Coach said, ‘Can you please call him so he will stop calling me?’
“So I did, and I went in for an interview. One thing led to another, and now here I am.”
By getting into the Secret Service at 22 years old, Beach has been able to work his way up the ladder to the point that he has been a part of protection details for the last six U.S. Presidents and directly protected three of those presidents: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In addition, Beach has also helped protect countless world leaders who have come into America, including Iran President Hassan Rouhani when he first visited the U.S. in 2013.
While protecting presidents and world leaders are a big task, Beach also likes the agency’s other mission, which is to protect the financial infrastructure of the country and combat counterfeit currency in the U.S. — the actual reason why the Secret Service was created in the first place back in 1865. But, no matter the assignment, Beach said it takes “a lot of selfless, timeless work to get it done.”
“There are agents working 18-20 hours a day to accomplish that mission,” Beach said. “It’s a 24/7 mission. We’ve been at the forefront of cyber and criminal investigations and we are proud of that.”
Beach believes he couldn’t have been one of the many “selfless” agents in the Secret Service if not for being a Pope John student.
“Selflessness is one of those values that you learn here,” Beach said. “You learn it in athletics and being here in this community. It transcends beyond those places and the teachers and staff are tremendous in providing that foundation.”
While he certainly has become a top official in his line of work, Beach hopes that current and future students can realize that you do not have to be perfect to become the best at what you want to be in life.
“What Pope John has done for me and what I hope it does for all of its students is to build on their character and solidify that character,” Beach said. “When you go out into the real world, nothing is free. Everything takes hard work. You need to work for everything you get here and in life. To me, that is the greatest lesson anyone can instill in life and Pope John does a great job of that.”