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Lillian Lambert

Small business executive Lillian Lincoln Lambert was born on May 12, 1940 in Ballsville, Virginia to Willie D. Hobson, a farmer and Arnetha B. Hobson, a school teacher and homemaker. Lambert graduated from Pocahontas High School in Powhatan, Virginia in 1958. Her mother, a college graduate, urged Lambert to pursue an advanced degree, but she wanted to move to New York City instead. She worked as a maid on Fifth Avenue, a typist at Macy’s Department Store and a travelling saleswoman. Lambert then moved to Washington, D.C. in 1961, where she worked for the federal government as a typist in the Veteran Affairs Division and later with the Peace Corps while going to school at the District of Columbia Teacher’s College (now the University of the District of Columbia). In 1962, Lambert enrolled as a full-time student at Howard University at the age of twenty-two. Under the mentorship of Professor H. Naylor Fitzhugh, she majored in Business Administration and applied to Harvard Business School. Lambert graduated from Howard University in 1966 with her B.A. degree in business administration and started Harvard Business School in 1967. At Harvard Business School, she worked with four other black students to increase the number of African American enrollments and in 1968, they founded the African American Student Union. Lambert graduated in 1969 and was the first African American woman to receive her M.B.A. degree from Harvard Business School.

Lambert was then hired at the Sterling Institute in Washington, D.C. and later as a manager at the National Bankers Association. In 1972, Lambert joined Ferris & Company as a stockbroker. In 1973, she began teaching at Bowie State College and became the executive vice president of Unified Services, a janitorial services company. Then in 1976, Lambert left Unified Services to start her own janitorial company, Centennial One, Inc. Starting in her garage, she grew Centennial into a business with more than 1,200 employees and $20 million in sales. In 2001, Lambert sold her company and in 2002, she became president of LilCo Enterprises. She now serves as a coach, consultant and public speaker.

Lambert is the recipient of numerous awards including the Small Business Person of the Year for the State of Maryland in 1981 and the Harvard Business School Alumni Achievement Award in 2003, the school’s highest honor for its alumni. She has served on the board of visitors for Virginia Commonwealth University, the board of regents for the University System of Maryland, the board of directors for the African American Alumni Association of Harvard Business School and committee vice chair for the Manasota Chapter of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Lambert is married to John Anthony Lambert, Sr. and has two adult daughters, Darnetha and Tasha.

Lillian Lincoln Lambert was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 9, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.018

Sex

Female

Interview Date

2/9/2012

Last Name

Lambert

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Lincoln

Schools

Pocahontas Middle

Harvard Business School

Howard University

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Lillian

Birth City, State, Country

Powhatan

HM ID

LAM03

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Any

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $1,000 - $5,000

Favorite Season

Spring

Speaker Bureau Notes

Preferred Audience: Youth, womens groups, business groups, education institutions.

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Defeat Is Not An Option.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Virginia

Birth Date

5/12/1940

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Richmond

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Ice Cream

Short Description

Business chief executive Lillian Lambert (1940 - ) was the first African American woman to graduate with her M.B.A. degree from Harvard Business School and went on to found her own company, Centennial One, Inc.

Employment

LilCo Enterprises

Centennial One, Inc.

Unified Services

Bowie State University

Favorite Color

Blue, Red

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lillian Lambert's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lillian Lambert lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lillian Lambert describes her mother's family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lillian Lambert talks about her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lillian Lambert talks about her father's family history

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lillian Lambert talks about her father

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lillian Lambert describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lillian Lambert talks about her family's property in Ballsville, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Lillian Lambert considers her likeness to her parents

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Lillian Lambert lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Lillian Lambert remembers nearly being crushed by a falling tree

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Lillian Lambert talks about the schools she attended in Ballsville, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Lillian Lambert remembers her neighbors in Ballsville, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Lillian Lambert describes the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up in Ballsville, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Lillian Lambert describes her childhood home in Ballsville, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lillian Lambert describes family conflicts over the value of education

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lillian Lambert talks about her family's attitudes towards money

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lillian Lambert talks about her schooling and extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lillian Lambert talks about her childhood church, Mt.Pero Baptist Church

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lillian Lambert describes race relations in Ballsville, Virginia during her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lillian Lambert recalls watching boxing with her father and listening to stories told outside the local store

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lillian Lambert describes working as a nanny in Riverhead, New York, as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Lillian Lambert talks about attending Pocahontas High School in Powhatan County, Virgina

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Lillian Lambert describes her high school aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Lillian Lambert describes her time living in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Lillian Lambert explains her move to Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lillian Lambert describes working at the Veteran's Administration in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lillian Lambert talks about her decision to enroll at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lillian Lambert describes how she financed her education at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lillian Lambert talks about her mentor, H. Naylor Fitzhugh

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lillian Lambert talks about her time at Howard University in Washington, D.C. as a commuter student

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lillian Lambert talks about her college extracurricular activities and reflects on being a nontraditional student

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Lillian Lambert recalls professors from Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Lillian Lambert recalls her various jobs during the summers in college

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Lillian Lambert describes her admission to Harvard Business School

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Lillian Lambert talks about the lack of African Americans at Harvard Business School from the 1930s to 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Lillian Lambert describes her efforts to have Harvard Business School enroll more black students

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lillian Lambert describes her efforts to recruit black students at Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lillian Lambert reflects on Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination and its possible effect on diversity at Harvard Business School

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lillian Lambert recalls her professors from Harvard Business School in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lillian Lambert recalls her time at Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lillian Lambert talks about a business school project for American Express

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lillian Lambert talks about working at the Sterling Institute after earning her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Lillian Lambert reflects on being the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Lillian Lambert talks about working at the Sterling Institute and the National Bankers Association

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Lillian Lambert describes working as a stockbroker and as a consultant for a janitorial company

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lillian Lambert talks about teaching and consulting while pregnant and her work for Unified Services full time

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lillian Lambert talks about being fired from Unified Services and starting her own business, Centennial One, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lillian Lambert talks about her committee work and her contracts awarded in the 1970s, including a government contract through the SBA's 8(A) Program

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lillian Lambert describes her commercial cleaning business, Centennial One, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lillian Lambert talks about her largest contracts and financial losses

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lillian Lambert recalls winning the Small Business Person of the Year Award in 1981

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Lillian Lambert considers President Nixon's role in the creation of the Small Business Administration

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Lillian Lambert talks about her mother's death

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Lillian Lambert talks about her first husband's involvement in her business

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Lillian Lambert talks about her second marriage

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Lillian Lambert talks about her involvement with the Harvard Business School African American Alumni Association in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Lillian Lambert talks about the success of her business, Centennial One, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Lillian Lambert talks about selling Centennial One, Inc. in 2001

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Lillian Lambert talks about starting LilCo Enterprises and working as a realtor

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Lillian Lambert talks about writing her book, 'A Road to Someplace Better'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Lillian Lambert reflects on how her life has changed since her childhood in Ballsville, Virginia

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Lillian Lambert reflects her interactions with the people in Ballsville, Virginia

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Lillian Lambert describes her volunteer activities

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Lillian Lambert talks about her student talks

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Lillian Lambert describes her mentoring relationships

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Lillian Lambert describes her hopes and concerns for African American communities

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Lillian Lambert talks about the racism shown HistoryMaker Barack Obama

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Lillian Lambert talks about discrimination in her business dealings

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Lillian Lambert considers what she might have done differently

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Lillian Lambert considers her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Lillian Lambert talks about serving on the board of regents at the University System of Maryland and Virginia Commonwealth University

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Lillian Lambert talks about her marriage to John Lambert

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Lillian Lambert describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Lillian Lambert narrates her photographs