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Honoring Two Giants With a Gift for the Future

At the Dean’s Dinner in April, Dean Frederick M. Lawrence honored Sy Herman, LLM ’66, for his contributions to the Nash and Cibinic Government Contracting Industry Chair.

In 1964, Sy Herman came to GW Law as a pioneer. Today he helps lead the pack.

Herman, LLM ’66, a certified public accountant and attorney, was among GW Law School’s first class to graduate with a master’s in government procurement law at a time when the field was just emerging.

He used his degree and close mentorship with legendary professor emeritus John Cibinic Jr., JD ’60, to translate his financial background and legal skills into an accomplished career with the government and several major corporations.

Saying that GW Law’s unique education was a key to his achievements, Herman has pledged a gift in excess of $500,000 to the Nash and Cibinic Government Contracting Industry Chair to help strengthen and expand the program. Established in 1960 by Cibinic and Ralph Nash Jr., JD ’57, GW’s Government Procurement Law Program continues to be the only one of its kind in the United States. With his generous gift, Herman says he wants to help uphold its exceptional standards.

“Cibinic and Nash were giants in the field, and my education at GW Law, I know, had a great deal to do with my success,” Herman says. “I feel I owe the University so much.”

The Nash and Cibinic Government Contracting Industry Chair was established to honor the duo for their commitment to GW Law School and the government contracts field. Widely recognized as the patriarchs of government procurement law, the team created the academic discipline at GW, educated a generation of students, and co-wrote the field’s core texts. Nash is professor emeritus at GW Law School. Cibinic passed away in August 2005.

As one of the program’s first students, Herman, who had a BS in accounting and a JD from New York University, says he came to GW Law with the intent to broaden his legal skills. In his evening classes, Herman says he reveled in Nash’s expertise and quickly felt a strong connection with Cibinic: “I’m more financial than legal, and [Cibinic] always gave a financial slant in his teaching,” Herman says. “We immediately had something in common.”

Herman’s interest in government procurement law stemmed from several unexpected but advantageous opportunities that popped up early in his career. In his 20s, financially-minded Herman enlisted in the Air Force with a direct commission as second lieutenant and became chief of the professional services branch at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, N.Y. He later served in a civilian capacity by analyzing the government’s defense procurement contracts. By working regularly on contracts with IBM Corp., Herman established a relationship with the information technology giant that led to a job as a pricing manager in 1958. He ultimately became director of accounting at the corporation’s division on government contracts.

In the mid-1960s, Herman felt the need to continue his ever-expanding education with the only program in the country that specifically fit his career interests. During a two-year leave of absence from IBM, Herman came to GW Law to hone in on his nearly decade-long work in government contracts. In addition to classes at night, he was assigned a full-time position at the Logistics Management Institute, a Department of Defense think tank under the leadership of then-Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara. His classes and day job complemented each other. Herman says he was studying profit policy with Cibinic at the same time he was interviewing defense companies through LMI to analyze and improve profit policy. The relevant real-life experience hit a peak: “I would bounce certain ideas around, and John Cibinic and I eventually collaborated on a technique that led to a new cost accounting standard 414 (cost of money on facilities capital),” Herman says. Herman, with Cibinic’s help, also developed a major change to the “Weighted Guidelines” profit policy, a structured method for determining pre-negotiation profit objectives. He developed a method for calculating investment capital on individual contracts in establishing pre-negotiation profit objectives.

When Herman graduated with his LLM, he says he was confident he had the advanced know-how to continue climbing in the field. He returned to IBM until he joined Arthur Andersen & Co. accounting firm in 1979. After traveling the world as a profitability consultant for the firm, Herman retired in 1987. He continued consulting for the firm until 1990.

Inspired by his mentor Cibinic, Herman became an adjunct professor at the Law School for several years at Cibinic’s request. Herman taught Accounting for Lawyers, a course he still says is necessary for law students to understand the ever-challenging “business end.”

Herman has long been a generous supporter of the Law School as well. He endowed a professorial lectureship in 1997, and in 2001 established the Herman Research Fund in Government Procurement Law and named a Herman Faculty Office. He is a founding member of the Law School’s Government Procurement Advisory Board (see sidebar), and donated twice to the Nash-Cibinic Chair, which has helped the chair surpass its $2 million goal, says J. Richard (Rick) Knop, JD ’69, the campaign chair.

“Sy Herman’s gift to the Nash-Cibinic Chair in government procurement law is incredibly generous and was a key catalyst in allowing us to complete the campaign for the chair,” Knop says. “This chair not only honors Professors Nash and Cibinic as the true ‘godfathers of government procurement law,’ but also will result in taking the Government Procurement Law Program at GW Law School to new levels.”

Herman, who lives in North Bethesda, Md., with his wife of 55 years, Sheila, says his life has been “full of blessings,” and that he feels lucky to be part of the extended GW Law School family. Dean Frederick M. Lawrence, honoring Herman at a Dean’s Dinner in April, maintained that the Law School is lucky to have alumni who continue to give their best.

“There is one place where I can say, bar none, we are the best in the country, and that is the Government Procurement Program,” Lawrence said. “It is precisely with the generosity and support of Sy Herman and others…that the Nash-Cibinic Chair will be a successful Chair and a permanent part of what we are producing and what we are about at The George Washington University Law School.”

Jaime Ciavarra

Leading the Way

The Nash and Cibinic Government Contracting Industry Chair recognizes the contributions to the field of government procurement law made by Ralph Nash and John Cibinic, GW Law alumni who served the school, and the government contracts community for more than three decades. The chair draws attention to and recognizes the role of the government contracting industry both as an academic discipline and as one of the key economic engines that drives the Washington Metropolitan area economy. The Government Contracting Industry Advisory Board will allow GW’s Government Procurement Law Program to draw upon the support, advice, and expertise of a wide range of leaders from throughout the public procurement and acquisition field.


Seymour Herman
J. Richard Knop
Edwin L. Phelps


Arnold & Porter, LLP
Crowell & Moring, LLP
Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Hogan & Hartson, LLP
Holland & Knight, LLP
McKenna Long & Aldridge, LLP
Smith Pachter, McWhorter & Allen, PLC
Venable, LLP
Wiley Rein, LLP
Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice, PLLC


Jean C. Cibinic
Dan J. Davis
Ralph C. Nash Jr.
Ronald S. Perlman
Steven L. Schooner
Jonathan T. Suder


Giving Students a Chance to Succeed

Couple gives $250,000 for scholarships, endowment

In the 1990s, Earle H. O’Donnell, JD ’75, and Catherine O’Donnell housed a young girl from Bulgaria named Gergana Ivanova while she attended a local high school. They watched as she struggled to find scholarships that were substantial enough to cover the costs of attending a four-year university. Inspired by Ivanova’s predicament, the O’Donnells have pledged a five-year, $250,000 gift to GW Law to establish scholarships and an endowment for GW Law students.

For each of the next five years, two first-year students with merit and need will share a $25,000 Earle H. and Catherine O’Donnell Annual Scholarship, which will help ensure they are not burdened with loans and debt upon graduation. Thereafter, the Earle H. and Catherine O’Donnell Endowed Scholarship Fund of $125,000 will ensure that money is available for students in years to come.

“Gergana always had great ambition and great talent but struggled financially. We wanted to help students like her,” Earle O’Donnell says. “We realized that if we could do something to make it easier for students with larger aspirations and ambitions than financial means, we have the potential to do something that makes a real difference in their lives.”

This is the first major gift from the O’Donnells, who are frequent contributors to GW Law. They hope to get to know the scholarship recipients and watch them grow during their years at the University.

Legal work in the energy field was ripe with opportunity when O’Donnell graduated from GW Law in 1975. Pursuing his longstanding interests in economics, policy, and regulation, he worked at an energy boutique firm in Bethesda, Md., before joining Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan in November 1976. There he represented independent companies breaking into the energy market and became partner in 1981. In 1993, O’Donnell joined Dewey Ballantine as head of the firm’s energy practice until 2006, when he joined the Washington D.C., law firm White & Case as head of its energy markets and regulatory practice. At White & Case, O’Donnell represents a wide range of national and international clients within the energy industry, including energy trading companies, electric utilities, and equity and debt investors. He is the author of numerous publications on the energy industry and has spoken at venues all over the world, including Poland and Argentina.

“Energy has been a perfect field for me,” O’Donnell says. “It continues to be the center of highly charged debates about how to introduce competition into the provision of a product people view as an essential good.”

Now 30 years into a law career and a nationally recognized authority on the energy industry, O’Donnell says he wants the scholarship recipients to have the same great experience he did at GW Law.

“As an alumnus of GW Law, I have benefited greatly from the education they provided me and I’m very grateful to the school for what they’ve done for me,” O’Donnell says. “I felt extremely well prepared for the practice of law because of GW Law. I think the University gave me an education that is unsurpassed by any other school.”

Julia Parmley

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The George Washington University Law School gratefully acknowledges our graduates and friends whose generosity enables us to attract talented men and women, regardless of their ability to meet the cost of today’s legal education, and to reward the exceptional achievements of our most promising students.

For more information on ways to establish an endowed scholarship, please contact the Law School’s Development Office at (202) 994-6117.