ASIS International’s new president, Geoffrey T. Craighead, CPP, is a true world citizen. Born and raised in Australia, Craighead also lived for several years in Hong Kong, then London, before coming to the United States, which he now calls home. He is currently vice president of Universal Protection Service of Santa Ana, California, a major U.S. security contractor. He is also the author of a seminal work, High-Rise Security and Fire Life Safety, a comprehensive reference for managing security and fire-life-safety operations within high-rise buildings, now in its third edition.
Security Management spoke with Craighead before the ASIS International 58th Annual Seminar and Exhibits in Philadelphia about his life Down Under and in Asia, the trajectory of his security career, and the impact of ASIS on his professional development.
Craighead was born in the Australian city of Melbourne and was raised in a middle class family. “Both sets of grandparents had come out from Scotland in the early 1900s. Dad worked as an accountant and Mum was a housewife. My sister, Barbara, my twin brother, Ian, and I were just regular kids with a regular home life,” he recalls.
He attended the Australian National University at Canberra where he completed a degree in forestry, intending to become a forestry professional. However, Craighead’s grand passion was football. “To explain it for non-Australians: there are three types of football in Australia—English football that’s known here as soccer, rugby, and then there’s another kind called Australian Rules football. It’s a fast-moving body-contact sport with no protective gear. Some reporters have aptly described it as ‘organized mayhem.’ It is the most popular football played Down Under,” he says. Craighead began playing professional football in 1973 in the Victorian Football League (now the Australian Football League) at the same time he was attending his final year of university.
“I would fly down to Melbourne on Friday night, play on Saturday, train on Sunday, come back to Canberra on Sunday night, and go to university during the week. Then, when I had graduated, I went down to Melbourne to play—although when I say professional football, we weren’t getting paid high salaries at all; we were paid $38 a match for senior players,” he reveals, adding that he later worked for a local transport company to pay the bills.
The next year, 1974, was a bad one. Craighead broke a thumb, gained 20 pounds of weight that he couldn’t shake off, and was suffering from a traumatic breakup with a girlfriend. “I was absolutely devastated over it,” he recalls and speaks of suffering deep depression. During this bleak period, Craighead says, he had a spiritual epiphany that left him at peace with leaving pro football.
Another aspect of his spiritual awakening was the desire to use his forestry degree to help people. “I wrote to various churches asking if they could use someone with my abilities, and long story short, I was offered a job to run a forestry plantation on Elcho Island.”