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Grace Crickette, chief risk officer for the University of California, Office of the President, often tells people that “a ghost story” led to her entering the risk management profession.
While she admits she didn't actually see a ghost, she conjured up a ghoulish memory while being interviewed for a risk management position by Ed Godwin, then-vp of risk management at U.S. Rentals Inc. in Modesto, Calif.
“I said I knew something about dump trucks, but I looked around the yard and didn't see any,” she said. So Mr. Godwin escorted Ms. Crickette around to the back of a building, where she confronted a big white dump truck.
“That's when I had to get my game on,” she said. “I told him I understand the power takeoff unit, or PTO, and how it works to transfer energy from the drive train to the bed of the truck.”
When Mr. Godwin asked Ms. Crickette how she had learned about PTOs, she explained that while serving as a legal specialist at insurance defense firm Bruggeman Smith & Peckham in San Bernardino, Calif., she worked on a case involving a laid-off tailor who was killed during a temporary job as a truck driver.
“The first day on the job, they had him drive a dump truck from the job site out to the dump. He was there by himself, and he figured out how to get the bed up, but he couldn't figure out how to get the bed down. It was supposed that he noticed that there is a mechanism under the bed of the truck and believed he could reach in and trigger that mechanism and get out in time,” Ms. Crickette said.
“Then I looked at Ed and his jaw was dropping. He said, "This is the truck,' and then he shook my hand and said, "You're hired,'” she said.
Since that fateful day in 1991, Ms. Crickette moved up the ranks at U.S. Rentals, eventually becoming vp of risk services in 1998. She joined the University of California in Oakland as chief risk officer in 2004.
Ms. Crickette, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the University of Redlands, has received numerous recognitions, most recently being named Information Security Executive of the Year by Atlanta-based Tech Exec Networks Inc. and as one of Business Insurance's 25 Women to Watch in 2011.
A mother of three adult children and, since her 2010 marriage to insurance defense attorney Patrick Taylor, stepmother to three more, 51-year-old Ms. Crickette also plays guitar and sings lead vocals in a rock band aptly named “The Endorsements” in her spare time.
After an analysis of the University of California's workers compensation claims experience showed that 32,593 of the university's 187,201 faculty and staff had filed repeat claims, Chief Risk Officer Grace Crickette decided it was time to focus on prevention.