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Navy Commander Stationed at Fort Belvoir Credits Former Teacher For Her Success

Onetime Nanuet resident thanks Catherine Nowicki, her high school English teacher, for inspiring her

Former Nanuet resident Emily Allen attributes much of her success to her former high school English teacher Catherine Nowicki.  Allen, whose maiden name was Li, was promoted to the rank of Navy commander on December 28, 2012 at a ceremony at the McNamara Headquarters Complex at Fort Belvoir. Allen, graduated from Nanuet Senior High School in 1993 and then attended the SUNY Maritime College, joined Naval ROTC and earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1997.

Allen said Nowicki, who is currently Clarkstown’s chairwoman of Economic Development, was a great inspiration to her and one of the reasons she chose a career as a naval officer. 

"A lot of people helped me get here, but in particular I owe a debt of gratitude to Mrs. Nowicki,” Allen said. “She had a huge impact on my life and on the lives of many others. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her."

Nowicki was not just her teacher but also housed Allen.  Nowicki explained that Allen was born in China but her father moved to the United States when she was young. 

He wound up living in Nanuet and when he sent for his daughter, she began attending school in Nanuet.  However, her father, an artist, decided to move to New York City and the teenager did not want to go.  Nowicki offered to let her stay in her home through high school graduation.

“She was one of my students and I knew what a hard worker she was and she stood up for what she believed in.

Nowicki takes great pride in Allen’s accomplishments.

“I think she is a great example of what you can do in America,” said Nowicki. “You can surmount all the odds and succeed.”

Nowicki and her husband raised seven children of their own and had two international exchange students from Mexico and Japan stay with them.

“I think she got a kick out of the big family,” Nowicki recalled. “My kids are fond of her and she of them.” 

Nowicki did not attend Allen’s December promotion but was present at her commissioning in the U.S. Navy as an ensign after her graduation from SUNY Maritime.

The two stay in contact and Allen visited her earlier this year.

“Having Emily was a joy,” she said. “It was a great experience for our whole family I would say in welcoming her and what she brought to the family.” 

Allen currently serves as the mission support team engineer in the Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office at the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), headquartered at Fort Belvoir. Allen is responsible for first response program management for contingency acquisition operations worldwide.

“I enjoy what I do; every job is unique and interesting. I get to visit different places around the world, meet all different types of people, and more importantly, the job I have affords me the opportunity to really make a difference in the lives of others,” said Allen.

In 2011, Allen was recognized as the DLA military field grade officer of the year and  officer of the quarter. She received a joint award for her support of Hurricane Sandy relief in 2012.

During the last 15 years, Allen served onboard the USS CARON and supported operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Allen received her master's degree in civil engineering from the University of Maryland in 2008 and is a registered professional engineer in Virginia, and member of the Acquisition Professional Community. Allen and her husband have an eight-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son.

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