Attention to Detail
Carl Agnelli ’89 protected two presidents during his 25 years with the Secret Service
by Bryan Wendell
From a luxury box at the Super Bowl to a beach in Cape Town, South Africa, Carl Agnelli ’89 has visited bucket-list locations on six continents.

But in his role as a Secret Service special agent protecting Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — a job where anything less than a 100% success rate was a catastrophic failure — these trips weren’t exactly vacations.

Agnelli served on the presidential protective detail from 1997 until 2002 — part of a 25-year career with the Secret Service. But for every Serengeti safari with Clinton or Daytona 500 with Bush, there were a hundred moments too dull for any scrapbook.

“People ask me what it’s like, and I say, ‘Put on your best suit. Go out and run around for an hour — get yourself real sweaty — and then stand in the rain, next to that door outside,” Agnelli says. “That’s what a lot of my days were like: freezing, standing outside in a place like Poland or Russia, thinking, ‘I’m going to die. It’s so cold.’ ”

Protecting U.S. presidents was all in a day’s work for Carl Agnelli ’89
Photo: Matt Agnelli
Protecting U.S. presidents was all in a day’s work for Carl Agnelli ’89.
Agnelli came to Bucknell on a football scholarship. After graduation, a former teammate recruited him to government work. Like most people who joined the Secret Service in the ’90s, Agnelli started his career tracking down counterfeit money.

When Agnelli was promoted to the protection detail, his definition of success changed dramatically. Instead of posing for photos in front of bogus bills, a good day meant his work went unnoticed.

“It is stressful,” he says. “I mean, God forbid anything happens; it’s all on you.”

After ending his Secret Service career in 2015, Agnelli moved into the private sector. As director of security at Citigroup in New York, stress remains — but it differs from his duty to protect presidents.

“Back then, I would come home to my wife and be like, ‘I don’t know how much longer I can do this,’ ” he says. “But when it was all said and done, I’m glad I did.”