MELBOURNE, FLA. — Mary “Cathy” Dickens, a 1998 Florida Tech graduate with a distinguished career in government and the private defense sector, has established a scholarship in her name to assist women looking to advance their careers with a degree from the university’s Nathan Bisk College of Business.
“My experience with Florida Tech was excellent, and I am confident establishing this scholarship will make a difference in other young women’s lives,” she said.
Dickens grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, and went to work for the Department of Defense at Redstone Arsenal fresh out of high school in 1976. Starting as a secretary, she soon moved into the contracting department, where she worked as a contract specialist for the next 11 years as she earned her undergraduate degree from Athens State University at night.
Continuing to move up the ladder, Dickens juggled full-time employment managing missile and radar contracts with motherhood and graduate school. In 1998, she earned her master’s degree in systems management from Florida Tech. By then, her career included overseeing aviation and missile contracting and a stint in Washington, D.C. supporting the executive deputy to the commander for Army Materiel Command.
Dickens became the first female deputy to the commanding general for the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in 2013, reporting to the commanding general at the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command and managing a $4 billion budget and a global workforce of 11,000 military and civilian employees. She retired from the Department of Defense at Redstone Arsenal after 30 years of civilian service in 2015 but moved to the private sector as senior vice president, business management for Huntsville-based COLSA Corporation, overseeing human resources, finance, proposal development and contracting.
“My degree was instrumental in positioning me for the leadership roles I held in the defense sector for the federal government and for the current position I have in industry,” she said. “A quality education, not only because of the doors that it opens but also in the expansion and broadening it provides you as a student, is invaluable.”
Dickens said the reasoning behind her decision to set up the scholarship, which will be fully endowed in four years, came from her desire to offer young women an opportunity to obtain an education that will allow them to contribute to their chosen field and the country at large.
“I would not have enjoyed the successes in my career if not for my outstanding education from Florida Tech,” she said.