As the first African American woman to graduate with a Harvard MBA, Lillian Lincoln Lambert understands the power of determination.
During a Women’s History Month special event at Christiana Care on March 19, Lambert told a room full of caregivers to seize opportunities when they are presented.
Seizing opportunity is how Lambert became a pioneering, highly successful businesswoman, a leader in women- and minority-owned entrepreneurship, an author and a role model.
A native of Virginia, Lambert moved to New York City and Washington D.C. after high school before enrolling in Howard University at the age of 22. After encouragement from her professors, she decided to apply to Harvard to pursue her MBA.
Her first application was rejected, but she was determined to succeed.
“Just by living you’re going to be knocked down,” said Lambert. “The question is: Will you get up with even more determination to do what it is you want to do?”
Lambert had the determination to find out why her application was rejected and retake the entrance exam. Two years later, she graduated from the Ivy League university.
“Don’t be afraid of failure or rejection,” said Lambert. “Had I accepted Harvard’s decision in that first letter, I wouldn’t be standing here today.”
Her determination didn’t stop at Harvard. In 1976, Lambert founded a building maintenance company in her garage that became Centennial One and grew to more than $20 million in sales.
In 1988, she testified before Congress to help pass H.R. 5050, the Women’s Business Ownership Act, which established the Women’s Business Center Program, gave female entrepreneurs more accurate representation in the U.S. Census and eliminated discriminatory bank lending practices that favored male business owners.
Lambert told the crowd there’s always more to learn, but that you must be motivated to find it. She noted there’s no set timeline in life to grow.
“It doesn’t matter if you bloom early or if you bloom late, as long as you bloom,” said Lambert.
The Christiana Care Women’s Employee Network sponsored the event.