“I’ll probably take a little time to let it sink in and then I’ll get back to work.” Dr. Cecil Beach (‘90), former educational administrator and current administrative assistant and teacher at Northside Christian School in Charleston, South Carolina, recently received the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor presented to an individual in recognition of their extraordinary achievement, service and contribution to the citizens of South Carolina.
On behalf of South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, Beach was presented the prestigious award by Lieutenant Governor Pamela Evette at the 2024 Conference for the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools (SCACS) in Columbia, SC. Although he’d heard that he would be honored by SCACS at the annual conference, Beach says the Order of the Palmetto was the furthest thing from his mind. Recipients are often philanthropists and former legislators, not Christian school teachers.
“Cecil has faithfully labored for the past 34 years, impacting thousands of faculty, students and families in the Lowcountry. With his steady and consistent mannerisms, he has served the citizens of the Palmetto State for more than half a century,” said Dr. Edward Earwood (‘79), executive director for SCACS, who was instrumental in nominating Beach for the honor. “Though small in stature and often working outside of the limelight, his life’s work has impacted thousands of citizens of our state, and his ongoing influence will forever cast a long shadow on the people of South Carolina.”
When he arrived at Northside Christian School in 1990, Beach said everything clicked and he knew he had arrived at the place where God wanted him to spend the rest of his ministry. He had recently finished his EdD degree at Bob Jones University and had previously served as faculty and administrator of the fledgling Sumter Christian School in Sumter, SC.
The path God used to lead Beach into Christian education was unconventional but looking back he can see how his varied experiences prepared him to be the administrator of a Christian school.
After graduating with a Bible degree from Columbia Bible College (now Columbia International University) in 1965, he hadn’t settled on a career path. A suggestion from a friend led him to move to Costa Rica where he learned Spanish and worked full-time as a translator. During that time, he proposed by letter to the girlfriend he met at CBC, Phyllis, who was back in the States. She said “yes”, they were married and then she joined him in San José. He completed the BA in Spanish Philology from the Universidad de Costa Rica in 1970.
Beach next went to the University of Virginia as a graduate assistant and earned an MA in Spanish Literature (1972) and then to Texas A&M to work with the Navigators, which sparked a lifelong passion for memorizing the Scriptures.
The Beach family returned to their home state of South Carolina where Cecil got a job as the merchandise manager for Belk’s Charleston department stores. His time there (1972-77) gave him experience leading people and expanded his knowledge of business. In 1978, he became a teacher at Sumter Christian School. A few years later, in 1980, he was asked to be the administrator. His diverse background proved to be an asset, but he also realized a need to further his education
That summer, BJU offered a special training called New Beginnings, which exposed students to University faculty from across the spectrum (finance, marketing, etc.). He dutifully drove back and forth from Sumter each week for eight summers. Beach went home and each fall immediately put into practice the ideas he learned in the summer. Initially, he was going to stop after he had finished the courses in his deficient areas, but Dr. James Deuink, dean of the School of Education, urged him to continue because having a doctorate would open doors for him.
Reflecting on the lessons impressed on him during his time at BJU, he primarily learned that “there is always a lot more to learn” and that “if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well.” He also experienced the importance of collaboration and brainstorming with colleagues. And he borrowed from Chris Anderson (’94), “All of us are smarter than any of us.” Above all else, his time at BJU reinforced his father’s admonition to be “faithful in the little things.”
In the spring of 1990, a call from Northside Baptist Church Pastor John Stevens to Dr. Bob Jones III for an administrator recommendation led to Dr. Beach’s coming to Northside that fall. At NCS, he was able to utilize his educational, business and linguistic background. He soon became a member of the SCACS board, which he has served on for four decades. His love for Christian education eventually led to the current dean of the School of Education and Human Services, Dr. Brian Carruthers (’84), asking him to create and teach an online course in Christian School Management through BJU.
In 2014, he felt it was time to step away from the role of head of school but continued to serve as the administrative assistant to Brian Washburn (’81) and then to Gavin Lockaby, in addition to teaching Bible doctrines and Spanish courses.
Whenever Beach is in Greenville, he visits his longtime mentor and close friend Dr. James Deuink. They both marvel at God’s faithfulness in their lives over the years.
Beach was shocked when he was presented with the Order of the Palmetto on January 24th. He doesn’t think he’s done anything particularly special other than doing the little things well for a long time. He will retire in June at the age of 80. He and his wife plan to move to Florida and continue serving the Lord in Ardella Baptist Church with Pastor Mark Bedwell.
Once he slows down, the significance of receiving the Order of the Palmetto may become a reality. The idea behind the award is that life is better in South Carolina because of the honoree’s actions and influence. “Dr. Beach has served children, families and the cause of Christian education as an exemplary school leader,” said Dr. Jeff Walton, executive director of the American Association of Christian Schools. “Because of his service, Christian education is a stronger movement, the AACS is a better organization and Christian schools are better places.”
The Beaches have three children: Jeff (’90)(Theresa, ’90), who heads the Beach group at Merrill Lynch; Jon (and Becky), president of Service Solutions; and Janelle Beach Sulik (’97)(Robert, ’98), who is a missionary wife and mother in Krakow, Poland.