By Kenneth Dahl
Students may hear laughter and notice happy employees at the library entrance security stations. The shining head with a smile is the man responsible for the Harold B. Lee Library security, said Sergeant Wayne Beck.
Not only has Beck served as a BYU police officer for 10 years, with five of those years as the library security manager, but he is also a BYU student working on a master”s degree in Spanish.
Beck graduated from Utah State University in 1981; he never planned to end up here.
“I”ve never understood my future as clearly as some people,” Beck said.
As a graduate in horticultural sciences, Beck wanted to work in a greenhouse in the San Diego area. But things were tough economically and Beck”s dream of San Diego ended up in San Jose.
In San Jose many things changed for Beck as he tried to follow his heart. He worked a few years in horticulture and then a few more as an air conditioning mechanic. As an air conditioning mechanic, but had an experience that made him question his life plan.
Beck decided that he could handle the work as a mechanic, but that he needed something more.
“It wasn”t that I had to get away from the foul talk or from a bad situation,” Beck said. “But I had the feeling this was not what I needed to be.”
Following his feeling Beck searched for another avenue.
“For me it is very exciting to receive a prompting that the decision you are making is correct, but leave the reasons in the hands of the Lord,” Beck said.
Through these promptings Beck discussed with his home teacher, who was a police officer, his desire for new employment. From his home teacher”s suggestion Beck explored the option to become a public servant.
A few months later Beck gave it a try.
“I like the freedom you have to prioritize and customize the way you work and how you serve people,” Beck said. “You really can make a difference.”
Starting with the San Jose Police Department, Beck set a goal to make a difference in somebody”s life everyday – and he feels he has.
While working with the public schools in San Jose Beck had a student in custody for petty theft. Beck knew with such a minor infraction the student would not serve time. Beck asked the student what he could do to help him. The student said he needed structure and discipline – he asked to spend the night in juvenile hall. The student said he”d never been punished for anything he did wrong. Beck arranged for the student to spend the night in juvenile hall.
The impact of this event surprised Beck as he received a phone call one year later from the student”s mother. The mother told Beck that she wasn”t sure what happened but ever since that day in Beck”s office her son was changed and he was currently excelling at the Air Force Academy – and her son credited Beck for the change in his life.
“The criminal justice system may have its weaknesses,” Beck said. “But more often than you think people can really change.”
In 1989 another change came for Beck and his family. The Loma Prieta Earthquake had damaged Beck”s home. As his family”s life was reassembled Beck felt to look around again.
Beck has some ideas, but is still unsure why his family needed to be in Utah. But he feels that the opportunities for growth and service have something to do with it.
One of those opportunities is to study Spanish. Many students will recognize Beck as their classmate or as they pass him in the halls of the JKHB.
“Working as a campus cop is mostly an ice breaker in class,” Beck said. “After that I”m just another student.”
Beck enjoys his studies and through them hopes to make a difference for other students.
In his thesis, Beck is researching how different people in 17th century Spain, such as lawyers, peasants, doctors and engineers speak. This socio-linguistic study is a new area of research where Beck hopes to open the door for other scholars.
This door is the first step towards his life”s ambition to establish a non-profit organization to help students learn to direct and obtain funding for their own research.
Beck expects to finish his degree in December 2003.