The Prodigal President
Print Issue: January 2014
ASIS INTERNATIONAL’S NEW PRESIDENT, Richard E. Widup, Jr., CPP, has been a member of ASIS twice. He first joined while he was serving on active duty with the U.S. Army. “I received the magazine; I read the magazine, but I didn’t spend any time exploring ASIS any further. I really didn’t know what to do and so I let my membership lapse. I never got outside my shell and my comfort zone. I didn’t attend chapter meetings or seek a council to join,” he says. Fortunately, his second stint as an ASIS member turned out quite differently through the encouragement of a mentor and an eagerness to network and participate.
“We do a heck of a better job today on outreach to new members than we’ve ever done, and I think that is, in part, because of the experiences of people like me…. We try to find some nexus between that person’s interest and what ASIS provides and offers.”
WITH THAT IN MIND, Widup goes out of his way to encourage new members to discover all that ASIS has to offer. One place that he seeks them out is the First-time Attendee and New Member Reception at the Annual Seminar and Exhibits. Of his own experience at his first of these yearly security mega-events in 2003, he says, “It was overwhelming. Absolutely overwhelming. My head was spinning. At the annual seminar now, I make sure that I go table to table and recount my first experiences with these folks, and they all nod their heads like ‘Yes, we know.’ We have a great ASIS app now that helps folks plan out their days, but I remember trying to balance out the networking and educational opportunities. I tell the new members, ‘You can’t possibly attend all of the sessions and events you want to attend, but don’t be discouraged. ASIS will make available the presentations that you don’t get to. We know we are going to throw a lot at you.’ When I tell them that, you can see the relief.”
Still thinking of his own first Seminar and Exhibits experience, the ASIS president adds, “It was daunting to me. But it was absolutely exhilarating. And it still is.”
On the Move
Widup began his life in New Mexico. He was the youngest son of a U.S. Air Force (USAF) officer who was stationed at Sandia Base, which was, for a quarter century until 1971, the main U.S. Department of Defense nuclear weapons installation. As the result of his father’s USAF career, “I moved most of my adolescent life,” he says. “Even after my father retired, he went to work for the federal government in a similar capacity. Actually, until I was 33, I had never lived in one place for more than four years.” Among the places that Widup temporarily called home were Cheyennne, Wyoming; Osaka, Japan; Orlando, Florida; Joliet, Illinois; Rockaway, New Jersey; and Norman, Oklahoma.
Widup’s mother died when he was 11 and his sister, who is 12 years his senior, “had a big influence on my life…. She was taking care of my dad and being the mom,” but, even so, she managed to graduate college in 1968. “She broke through the glass ceiling at a time when it was extremely difficult for wo men to do so—hence my passion for the Women in Security and the Young Professionals programs,” he says.
Following his father’s path, Widup signed up with the U.S. Army at age 18. His intention was to become a military police officer, then pursue a public law enforcement career after his term of enlistment ended. However, Widup graduated at the top of his class from the military police Basic Training course, and because of this, he was selected to attend a follow-on course at the U.S. Army Military Police Investigators school. These investigators work on misdemeanor and some felony crimes allegedly perpetrated by Army personnel or that take place on Army bases and installations.
“I spent my first couple of years as a military police investigator,” says Widup. “I then decided that since I was really enjoying the work, I would apply to be a U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) agent…. They are responsible for investigating rapes, robberies, murders, frauds, and other felony crimes.”
Widup recalls one case that gives the flavor of his work: the double murder of a service member’s wife and her boyfriend. “We never recovered the murder weapon, but we built a circumstantial case strong enough to get the husband convicted. It was tough, because without the weapon, it’s very difficult to prove that the assailant committed the act,” he states.
Later, Widup became a polygraph examiner and “ended up spending a good part of my CID career as a supervisory examiner. I retired in 1994 as the head of the U.S. Army CID polygraph program.” As such, Widup managed a cadre of agents around the world who conducted polygraphs in support of military operations, including Desert Storm, in the pursuit of war crimes cases, and in other Army support functions.
“It was a wonderful experience serving in the Army, and I was given lots of opportunities. One of the things I have always noted about the Army is that you are only limited by the boundaries of your passion and your desire to improve and to do something you have not done before,” he says.
After leaving the Army in 1994, Widup became a special agent with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations, based in Rockville, Maryland. “I quit work for the Army on a Friday and started with the FDA on Monday,” he recalls. “I was responsible for polygraphs done in support of product tampering and some product counterfeiting cases. It was my first experience in protecting public health, and I became fascinated by the challenge.”
Widup worked for the FDA for seven years before making a difficult decision not to remain with the federal government until retirement; instead, he moved into the private sector. “As a federal law enforcement officer, you have to retire at age 58 or 59…and I knew that at that age, I would not be ready to retire completely. But I was also concerned that—at that age and coming out of law enforcement—I might not be young enough to be hired by a private company…. I didn’t think I’d be a viable candidate,” he explains.
However, Widup’s work on the FDA’s product tampering and counterfeiting cases made him stand out to Pfizer, Inc., which brought him on as global security manager in February 2001. After working in New York City for Pfizer for half a year, on the morning of September 11, Widup left his Manhattan apartment to head for the office. In an interview for Security Management in 2011, he said he recalled thinking, “‘Wow. It’s a beautiful day.’ You might have read that in newspapers, or heard it in TV sound bites, but boy was it gorgeous…. I don’t ever say that anymore.”
Widup was in his office when his wife called. “She said, ‘Look out the window. A plane just crashed into one of the towers.’ I opened my office blinds and could see the North Tower. I asked my wife, ‘Did someone fly a Cessna into it?’ But when I turned on the television and saw the damage I said, ‘Oh, that wasn’t a Cessna.’”
Widup watched the North Tower’s eventual collapse from “our sister building on East 3rd. We had a physical security team in place doing all that they could do at all the buildings we had Pfizer offices in, but it was really confusing and frustrating because you knew you needed to look out for something, but you didn’t know what,” he said in 2011.
In the aftermath of the attacks, it was learned that one Pfizer employee had been killed. She was visiting an insurance agent on the North Tower’s 110th floor, renegotiating Pfizer’s insurance contracts for logistics functions. Widup was then heading a standards-of-care project and had collaborated with her on it. “She was a dream to work with,” he remembers sadly.
Twelve years on from that terrible day, Widup can assess its historic changes to security. “It elevated security to another level. I think that from a technical perspective, security was ready to answer the post-9-11 needs. I’m not sure that from a business perspective we were ready, however,” he states. “Risk analyses went out the window; we became a nation that was totally risk-averse. For example, I think about all the buildings that put bollards up in front after 9-11. But really, what was the risk of someone driving into your lobby? Companies spent a lot of money on things they, quite frankly, didn’t need. And I think that some folks took advantage of it.”
However, Widup continues, the post-9-11 era “was also a good time in that it got us involved in aspects of the business that, heretofore, we had not been invited into.” The result of this was that security was finally elevated to business partnership. “I think that today ASIS members are so much more in tune and aligned with business—their business acumen is better than it has ever been,” he states.
When he first came to Pfizer, “I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew I’d be doing some of the same things I’d done at the FDA, but the thing I didn’t know is what the ‘other duties as assigned,’ as they say, would be,” Widup recalls.
He found out soon enough. “Shortly after I began, my boss came in and said, ‘Rich, the logistics team wants corporate security to help establish standards of care for the safe and secure movement of our goods. You can do this, right?’ And I said, ‘Sure.’ He left, and I scratched my head and thought, ‘What the heck is a standard of care?’”
Widup, who had originally joined ASIS while he was in the Army, and who rejoined just before he took his position at Pfizer, called the O. P. Norton Information Resources Center at ASIS headquarters to request information on cargo security. Among the citations he received were many articles and books by Louis A. Tyska, CPP. “So, I went online and looked at the ASIS membership directory and found he was an ASIS past president and was then the chair of the ASIS Supply Chain and Transportation Security Council, and I thought he’d be a good person to talk to. I called and said, ‘Here’s my dilemma. Can you help me?’”
Tyska—a “salty New Englander,” notes Widup—peppered him with questions about the project, to which Widup sheepishly replied that he had no real answers. Tyska said, “‘How the hell did you get hired? You don’t know nothin’!’” Widup recalls with laughter. It was the inauspicious start of a great mentorship that later became Widup’s entrée into ASIS volunteer leadership.
“ASIS provided the skill sets and the foundation for Pfizer to develop these standards of care that became the foundation documents for our C-TPAT entry,” he says. (C-TPAT is Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, a voluntary supply-chain security program that seeks to improve the security of private companies’ supply chains.) “Pfizer was the first full-blown participant, and those documents became foundational, in my opinion, for the pharmaceutical industry in general.”
Widup joined the Supply Chain and Transportation Security Council in 2002, at Tyska’s urging. In 2003, he attended a council meeting in Miami. “Lou opened the meeting with his usual jokes and comedy,” Widup remembers. “Then he says, ‘Listen, folks, I have to step down [because of serious personal illness]. But while I’m gone, Rich is going to take over for me.’ At the break, I went up to him and said, ‘Um, Lou, were you planning to tell me this beforehand?’ He just says, ‘Don’t worry. You can do it.’ I said, ‘Lou, I don’t know what to do.’ He says, ‘Call Susan. She’ll tell you!’” That was that.
The “Susan” to whom Tyska referred is Susan Melnicove, ASIS’s long-time vice president of education. “I called Susan and said, ‘Lou is an icon. I don’t want to disappoint this guy. I need to come down, and I need you to ramp me up on ASIS and what’s going on.’” On the day he arrived at the Society’s headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, he says, “Susan had assembled around the conference table about six people from various ASIS elements.”
After the comprehensive briefing they provided, Widup told Melnicove that he’d never guessed the Society was involved with so much and could provide so many resources. “She said, ‘Good. Now get to work!’” he remembers.
And so he did. Widup was council chair for two years, winning the Council Chairman of the Year Award for his efforts. Widup says that C-TPAT compliance was one area where the council could reach out to help ASIS members. “It was a golden opportunity for this council to reach out. We began to do seminars and bring in subject matter experts to talk about C-TPAT. We reached out to the government and had representatives come and talk about what the program was like,” he says. “We also brought in cargo theft task force members to discuss the challenges that folks across all industries were experiencing. We were constantly trying to feed information to ASIS members because there was a real need for it at the time.”
He graduated to the role of council vice president (CVP), overseeing a group of ASIS councils, in 2005 and 2006. During the latter year, he was asked to run for the ASIS Board of Directors. Widup recalls, “I said that I would only run for the board if I could truly add value to it. I didn’t want to do it just to build my own résumé.” Once convinced that he could aid the Society in the long-term through the strategic decisions made by the board, “I threw my hat in the ring,” he says. “And here I am today.”
At Pfizer, Widup went on to become a global security director for the Americas Region, supervising the pharmaceutical company’s global security managers who watched over approximately 50,000 employees and 38 manufacturing and logistics facilities. Among Widup’s responsibilities were strategic planning, budget management, oversight of administrative processes, reviewing and assigning all investigations and projects, and liaising with United States and international law enforcement agencies, as well as other regulatory and not-for-profit agencies.
In 2005, while serving as a CVP, Widup took a job opportunity “to move to bucolic Connecticut instead of remaining in downtown Manhattan—I loved it, but it was not a place I wanted to live in forever,” he explains. His new position was in the much smaller town of Stamford as senior director of corporate security for Purdue Pharma, LP. There he would help develop the company’s brand protection program. “I saw the opportunity there and to have a reasonable commute and to work for a great company that does a lot to make the world a better place,” he states. “Every day, I am involved in brand protection efforts—anticounterfeiting, antidiversion, product tampering prevention, theft prevention—any challenge that affects brand reputation. We spend a lot of time trying to reduce pharmacy crime, robberies, and burglaries, as well as removing and preventing illegal online sales of our products.”
Widup’s superior at Purdue is its vice president and CSO Mark Geraci, CPP. “How perfect is it to have an ASIS president working for an ASIS past president? I don’t have to talk about the value-added properties of ASIS. Mark gets it,” Widup states.
Of the ASIS Board of Directors, he says, “One of the things that I am most proud of is being part of an organization that has a strategic planning process that is vibrant and robust and helps drive the business, so to speak, of ASIS. It keeps us focused and keeps our eyes on the ball. That helps us sustain, year after year, the achievement of goals that are worthy and that meet the needs, wants, and desires of our members. Also, having the current governance model where the secretary, treasurer, president-elect, president, and chair of the board all move through the positions is incredibly invaluable. By the time you are president, you have served in a multitude of positions involving various aspects of volunteer leadership and the management of ASIS in general...so you are well versed in key aspects of the organization.” Widup says that the board has three responsibilities: developing and implementing the strategic plan, fiscal management, and the overall governance of ASIS. It is a regular mission to query whether ASIS’s Policies and Procedures are up-to-date. “We ask do they really reflect what is going on? Are they effective? If not, how do we modify or change them to make them more effective? We also oversee the financial health of the organization...and [ensure] that we are fiscally prudent in the expending of funds.” Beyond that, he opines, “I think it’s critical that we continue to look for opportunities to increase our sphere of influence. I’m reading a book right now that has really gotten me thinking. It’s called Intellectual Capital: The New Wealth of Organizations by Thomas A. Stewart. In it, the author says that intellectual capital is more than intellectual property. It’s about knowledge and a knowledge-based environment. Knowledge is the new oil. So, we need to look for ways to expand our sphere of influence and create communities of interest by seeking out other organizations that have some nexus with ours to establish a relationship with. Last year, we were able to affect robust relationships with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Security Industry Association. I want to see those continue to grow and expand and produce tangible results.”
Widup stresses the term “relationship.” “Partnerships are important, but relationships are everything. Partnerships are not as effective and vibrant as they can be if there is no relationship. It’s more than a partnership—it’s a sharing of ideas and innovating to develop new concepts. That’s what I would like to see.”
Of personal relationships, Widup states that he and his wife are the “proud parents of two children, both of whom are police officers in the state of Maryland. My daughter is a homicide detective with Montgomery County, and my son is a senior patrol officer for the Anne Arundel County Police Department.”
He also has three grandchildren; his son has a set of twins who are age three, and his daughter has a 15-month-old boy. “It’s going to be interesting when those kids get older and try to get dates,” he laughs.
When asked if he had any pet projects for his year in office, Widup replies, “I hope to kick up some thought this year about leadership. Leadership has been considered a soft skill, and I think that term is a little demeaning of the role of leadership. We need to do all that we can to provide the best leadership opportunities to our members so that they can be better leaders at work and better volunteer leaders for ASIS as well.”
Of what lies ahead, Widup states that the security industry is going to “be more dynamic than it ever has been.” Security professionals, he thinks, “will continue to be wearing three or four hats. But I think we’ll see the evolution of the business professional coming into the security profession—more and more individuals who were in other areas of business who are now responsible for security. We’re going to be educating business professionals on how to be effective and efficient security managers.”
Ann Longmore-Etheridge is an associate editor of Security Management and editor of ASIS Dynamics.