Susan Allen visits the Taj Mahal.

When Susan Allen sets her mind on something, nothing can stop her from accomplishing her goals.

Determination, faith and resolve enabled her to earn a degree at Ohio State at 19 years old, navigate a 22-year career in the U.S. Army and conquer the rigors of law school — heady accomplishments during a time when women were fighting for equal rights.

“Be all you can be”

After earning a business degree from Ohio State in 1974, 19-year-old Susan had a choice: take a job offer from Fortune 500 company Westinghouse, or pursue a master’s degree in public policy. She chose the latter, but less than a year into the program, she deferred her pursuit, not wanting to accumulate debt from a student loan.

She knew she would eventually continue her education but wanted to take time to see the world, explore other cultures, and gain experience in management before entering the workforce full-time.

For her, the U.S. Army was the answer.

She joined the Army just after the Vietnam War, after the draft had ended and during a time when there weren’t many women in the military. The military, she thought, would be a great way to continue a curiosity she had picked up during her time as a Buckeye.

“As an undergraduate at Ohio State, I loved taking international business courses which helped inspire my love for business and travel,” says Susan. “I saw what the military afforded my father, who retired from the Air Force. The Army addressed everything I was looking for — leadership, a graduate degree without debt and traveling the world — so I signed up and asked to be assigned to Europe. I started my first duty assignment just outside of Heidelberg in West Germany.”

Susan Allen as a U.S. Army captain.
Susan Allen as a U.S. Army captain.

Susan embraced the Army’s tagline “Be all you can be.” When opportunities arose for promotions, she pursued those opportunities and kept building her management and leadership experiences.

In 1976, she began her four-year initial enlistment as an E3, private first class in the Adjutant General Corps. Within two years, she achieved the rank of Specialist 5, the equivalent of a U.S. Army sergeant. Her duties included managing soldier assignments and reassignment and overseeing personnel systems that affected unit readiness, morale and career development.

While in Germany, Susan packed her bags and visited over 20 nearby countries, including France, Spain, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Finland, Austria and Italy. She enjoyed taking in the culture, architecture, landscape and unique offerings of each area.

She also took graduate courses led by University of Southern California professors teaching soldiers overseas. She earned her master’s degree in systems management in 1979, courtesy of the G.I. Bill.

In her final enlistment year, she was assigned to Ft. Belvoir, Virginia. With the encouragement of her boss, a U.S. Army colonel, she applied for a direct commission to become an officer and became a second lieutenant in August 1980. Her first assignment as an officer was in the 2nd Infantry Division located in the vicinity of the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea. She was the chief testing officer responsible for administering skills qualification tests to soldiers assigned to the division. This experience catapulted her towards more challenging assignments.

Throughout her career, Susan’s roles consisted of managing personnel issues, assigning soldiers to military units and stations and managing field assignments. She was also in charge of overseeing award and promotion processes, handling personnel issues, supervising the security of service members’ information and working with the finance offices to ensure personnel leave and pay records were in order.

In 1984, she obtained a special secondary function of automation. In her first automation assignment at a military intelligence unit, she used her certification to set up desktop computers and train individuals to use automation.

“My training helped me to upgrade the capabilities of a military intelligence unit that was conducting intelligence and counter-intelligence operations from 1985 to 1987. This same unit was one of the first units to be in-theater during the Gulf War in 1990,” says Susan. “I was proud to know that I and my subordinates were instrumental in preparing this unit for their eventual deployment to fight and help win the war.”

Major Susan Allen at retirement.
Major Susan Allen at retirement.

In all, she served in the Army for 22 years, finishing as a field grade officer at the rank of major.

“I met all my goals in the Army: I gained leadership experience as an officer, experienced international travel, and earned a graduate degree,” Susan says. “I also loved seeing over 50 countries including most of Western Europe, Egypt, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, Bermuda, the Bahamas and many states in the U.S.”

“My business classes at Ohio State were invaluable because they gave me the foundation for communicating with and understanding the Army’s human resources, financial and automation systems.”

Becoming a lawyer

After separating from the service, Susan set her mind on becoming a lawyer — a journey that began inauspiciously.

She missed the application deadline for law school at George Mason University due, in large part, to unforeseen family issues — her mother was in early stages of dementia. Not one to give up, she joined the school’s select six-week summer law school prep program to help her gain a chance at one of the few admissions slots that became available. The admissions committee granted her admission for the incoming class in the fall of 1999.

“As a woman in my 40s, going to law school and traveling to Columbus, Ohio, to visit my ailing mother was tough,” says Susan. “But I knew I wanted it, so I worked hard to balance my personal life and courseload to successfully complete law school.”

She graduated in December 2003 and took a six-week review course to prepare for the District of Columbia Bar exam.

“In 2004, only 70% of the first-time applicants pass the D.C. Bar exam,” she says. “For all the fuss, I did not think it was that hard. I took the exam in July, received word that I passed in October, and was sworn in as a lawyer in November 2004.”

She created her own law firm and for the last 19 years has been a solo-practicing attorney with the Allen Law Firm.

Susan Allen with Dean Anil Makhija.
Susan Allen with Dean Anil Makhija.

Strength of mind

The tenacity Susan displayed in the Army and in pursuit of her law degree was not new — she has been steadfast since her teenage years growing up in Columbus.

Susan graduated from Linden McKinley High School in 1972 at the age of 16 before turning her focus to college and a business degree.

“To be honest, I was not interested in attending Ohio State at first. I wanted to go to a Christian university, but there were no scholarships for me to do so,” says Susan. “My family had a legacy of Ohio State graduates — four of my siblings were Buckeyes — so it seemed a natural fit. Ohio State recruited me and I became a Buckeye.”

She received several academic scholarships and federal grants which paid for tuition, room and board. After just two and a half years, Susan graduated in December 1974 with a business degree specializing in marketing. She was just 19 years old.

Giving back

During the nearly 50 years since graduation, Ohio State has always been a special place for Susan and her family — there are 11 relatives who graduated from Ohio State and many other family members who are Buckeye sports fans. She proudly wears scarlet and gray, and her love of travel remains a lifelong passion, even at age 68.

Susan Allen with her family at her scholarship plaque dedication.
Susan Allen with her family at her scholarship plaque dedication.

In recognition of the support she received as a Buckeye, Susan wanted to give back and provide future Ohio State students the opportunity to explore the interactions of business and global experiences.

In 2019, she created the Major Susan Allen, Esq. (Army, Ret.) International Scholarship Fund to support critical, action-based learning experiences available at Fisher. Each year, her scholarship funds three to four undergraduate or graduate business students, providing them the opportunity to gain valuable experience working with global companies.

“I was afforded a great business education that has been the backbone of my career,” she says. “I want to give that same opportunity to current and future Fisher students. This scholarship gives individuals who may not have been able to afford a global opportunity, the chance to explore international business programs and understand the global economy, just as I was able to do.”

“My accomplishments resulted from a foundation of being raised in a Christian family, believing in God Almighty, and trusting in Jesus Christ.”

Susan Allen (BSBA '74)Retired Major, U.S. Army