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University of Missouri

Serial Disruption

She spent her career helping firms adapt to change. Now Catherine Allen wants to change retirement.

Catherine Allen

Cathy Allen serves on the College of Human Environmental Sciences’ dean’s strategic leadership council and is a tri-chair for Mizzou’s upcoming comprehensive campaign. Photo by Rob Hill.

Since she was young, Catherine Allen has embraced challenges to the status quo.

The daughter of a small-town banker in Perry, Missouri, Allen, BS HES ’68, DHL ’05, wanted to follow her dad into business, an environment largely unwelcoming to women in the 1960s. As a retailing major in the College of Human Environmental Sciencestextile and apparel management program, she found “a safe way to enter business” and rise to leadership.

But she didn’t stay in retailing long.

Allen used the lessons she learned at Mizzou — an understanding of people and how to market — and subsequent master’s and doctorate degrees to launch a career in business and technology.

She worked on emerging technology for Citicorp. In 1997, she became the founding CEO of BITS, a consortium of the 100 leading financial firms seeking guidance about new technologies, especially e-commerce. After Sept. 11, BITS’ focus shifted to include cybersecurity. Allen testified before Congress on homeland security issues multiple times. In 1996, she started her own technology consulting company, The Santa Fe Group, named after her adopted hometown in New Mexico.

Allen also remains involved in Mizzou and now serves as a tri-chair of the campaign cabinet guiding the upcoming comprehensive campaign. She is also a member of the research and development advisory board, led by Hank Foley, vice chancellor for research. There, she advises Mizzou on its potential patent-producing research.

At 68, she is training her disruptive eye on retirement. “We [boomers] are changing the way we think about retirement,” she says. “We will continue to reinvent ourselves.”

The lead author of Revolutionary Retirement (Reboot Partners LLC, 2014), Allen encourages readers to look beyond finances and consider what they want to do, where they want to live and what passions they want to pursue in the next chapters of their lives.