ATHENS, Ala. - The head of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command's Contracting Office received a prestigious award from her alma mater April 2.

Mary C. "Cathy" Dickens, the principal assistant responsible for contracting and the director for the Contracting and Acquisition Management Office for the command, was named the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year at Athens State University. She also serves as the executive director of the Army Contracting Command-Redstone.

The award was presented at the Athens State University 103rd Annual Alumni Banquet, hosted by the Alumni Association in the Sandridge Center Ballroom at Athens State University.

Dickens said she was honored and humbled to receive this award.

"I was very proud, because I know that ASU provided me a great foundation to allow me to achieve success in my career and to give back to this community," she said.

"My entire career has been spent working for the Army," Dickens said. "And with the Army's support, I was able to complete my education at night and on the weekends."

Dickens earned her Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Athens State University in 1993.

"There were so many people who I worked for at that time who mentored and encouraged me to continue on and make sure that I got the right education and to be the best that I could be," she said. "It set the foundation to allow me in leadership to give back to this community and take care of our Warfighters, because that's what we do in contracting."

Dickens said a former supervisor, Mike Pool, really encouraged her to go back to school. That's when she selected Athens because they were student friendly.

"They recognized that if you were in a job that you might have to travel, and they worked with you," Dickens said. "They wanted you to achieve what you needed to achieve, and they helped you get there while still providing a quality education."

Additionally, Dickens said the support she got from her late husband and family was instrumental in her success.

"Not many husbands would have put up with having two young kids and a wife working full time and going to school at night," she said.

Dickens continued her education earning a Master of Science in management from the Florida Institute of Technology (1998) and is a graduate of Senior Executive Fellows, Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government.