15 Apr 2016
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First African American Woman to Receive Harvard MBA Talks Power of Persistence, Resilience, and Courage

Lillian Lincoln Lambert recognized the importance of education and broke barriers

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(Image: Cathy Walsh)

The first African American woman to earn an MBA at Harvard Business School, Lillian Lincoln Lambert (MBA 1969) attended the School at a time when women weren’t allowed to live on campus. Instead, she and her few female classmates were required to walk or ride the half mile from their Radcliffe College dorm.

A graduate of Howard University who was rejected on her first try applying to HBS (she freely admits she wasn’t adequately prepared), Lambert went on to a long and successful career as an entrepreneur, business manager, author, and speaker. In 2003 when she was honored as an HBS Alumni Achievement Award recipient.

In a recent wide-ranging interview with Black Enterprise, Lambert reflects on the impact of HBS on her career, her upbringing in the segregated South, and how she has met and overcome both professional and personal challenges.

Asked how her early life prepared her for the rigors of business competition, she told the publication:

“As a child growing up in the segregated south, my parents, teachers, and others in authority instilled in us youngsters that competition for blacks would be keen and sometimes unfair. In order to be competitive, we had to prepare ourselves to be better than our white counterparts just to compete at the same level.

“Expecting that things may not always be fair was clearly understood by me. However, that was not an excuse to avoid the competition.”

Read the three-part interview in Black Enterprise here: part 1, part 2, part 3.

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Class of MBA 1969, Section D
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