Former Director, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization
Department of Defense
Retired General Counsel, Howard University
Norma Leftwich never imagined that in 1995 she would become the first woman in the history of Howard University to serve as general counsel, the top legal officer of that esteemed Historically Black University. In this position, she managed the legal affairs of the university, as well as its subsidiaries, including Howard University Hospital, WHUR 96.3 FM radio station, and the public television station WHUT-TV. She provided counsel to Howard’s president and its board of trustees and found each day brought an opportunity for variety and excitement. She was attracted by the university’s strong history and mission of providing a stellar education, initially to African American students and later to students of all races.
Ms. Leftwich is no stranger to “firsts.” Prior to her career with Howard University, following the passage of PL 95-507, she was the first person to become the director of what was then called The Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSADBU) in the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the U.S. Department of Defense. There, she was responsible for setting and implementing goals and policies that would ensure that women and minority firms were afforded a fair and equal opportunity to compete for defense prime and subcontract dollars. At that time,Ms.Leftwich reported directly to the Deputy Secretary of Defense and was instrumental in elevating this program and position to the highest level of visibility within the department. During her tenure, the Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR) and the Mentor Protégé Program were first introduced in the Department of Defense. After leaving the department, she returned to serve as a consultant on small and minority business mattersto the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics).
Following her graduation from Georgetown University Law Center, Ms. Leftwich worked as an associate counsel in the Government Contracts Division of Seyfarth Shaw Law Firm, where she also served as vice chair of the Small Business Committee of the American Bar Association.
One of Ms. Leftwich’s proudest professional achievements was her appointment to the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. In this volunteer position, she helped to oversee the electoral process in the nation’s capital.