2014 VLA Lifetime Achievement Award

Long-time community volunteers and philanthropists are jointly named
as recipients of prestigious 2014 Leadership Victoria Award

The tireless husband-and-wife team of Mickey and Donna Hajash has always led by example—building a successful family and career has gone hand in hand with a passionate commitment to community service and generous philanthropy. The couple has contributed innumerable volunteer hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund university scholarships and charities such as the United Way of Greater Victoria for over three decades.

Together, Mickey and Donna Hajash will accept the Leadership Victoria Lifetime Achievement Award (sponsored by Il Terrazzo Ristorante) at the tenth annual Victoria Leadership Awards (VLAs) gala on February 26, 2014 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Crystal Garden.

Mickey Hajash, a former oil executive and CFL player, immigrated to Canada with his family from Hungary when he was 5 years old. The family first settled in Estevan, Saskatchewan, living in a tar-paper shack during the grim years of the Great Depression. A few years, later the family settled on a farm in Brooks, Alberta. At school, Mickey's natural athleticism led him to excel on the sports field.

He played for the University of Alberta Golden Bears and served as team captain. He was also named best male athlete in his final year of school. After graduating in 1947 with a degree in Mining Engineering, Mickey played for the Calgary Stampeders in the CFL and even featured in the 1949 Grey Cup match, which Calgary lost to Montreal.

Mickey went on to work as an executive with Imperial Oil. His career took him around the world with postings in Iraq, United Arab Emirates, New York, Houston, Singapore, Kuala Lampur, and the UK. He worked on the cutting edge of oilfield exploration technology as a geophysicist, and made significant contributions to the discovery of major oil and gas fields in Western Canada, the Middle and Far East, and the North Sea.

Mickey and Donna retired to Victoria in 1986 and ever since have volunteered with the United Way of Greater Victoria, donating over $500,000 and serving on board and volunteer leader committees. In 1990, with $517,000 of their own money, the couple established the Donna and Mickey Hajash Foundation which funds post-secondary scholarships and charities. On average, 11 scholarships of $2,500 are granted annually in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

At the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Mickey, the former track star, was attaché to the Sierra Leone team. He rallied support to provide the team with uniforms and running shoes.

In Victoria, at the age of 88, Mickey can still be found working with and donating to the many charities he holds dear—by selling car raffle tickets for Rotary Victoria, canvassing door to door for the Heart & Stroke Foundation, supporting the Mustard Seed Food Bank, signing letters and visiting donors for United Way and connecting isolated friends and seniors. He was also the driving force behind the creation of a 52-unit housing project for the needy.

In 2009, Mickey received the National Philanthropy Day Vancouver Island, Spirit of Generosity Award. In 2011, at the United Way national conference in Calgary, Mickey was honoured with the Andre Mailhot Award, United Way of Canada's highest honour. In 2012, Mickey was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

The upcoming tenth annual Victoria Leadership Awards ceremony provides the occasion to honour all 21 distinguished 2014 nominees in eight prestigious categories—from youth to lifetime achievement. Led by Leadership Victoria, the awards are a partnership between Leadership Victoria, the University of Victoria, the Rotary Clubs of Greater Victoria, the Victoria Foundation and the United Way of Greater Victoria.

At the upcoming February 26th ceremony, the local organization receiving the Victoria Foundation Community Leadership award and the recipients of the individual Victoria Leadership Awards in six additional categories (the Rotary Community Leadership Awards, the Vancity Youth Award, the University of Victoria Community Leadership Awards, the United Way of Greater Victoria Award for Collaboration and Partnership, the Royal Roads University Leadership Excellence through Coaching and Mentoring Award and the Leadership Victoria Alumni Award) will be announced.

2014 marks the special 10th anniversary Victoria Leadership Awards gala. Previous recipients of the lifetime achievement award include: Bob Harman (2013), Naz Rayani (2012), the late Alex Campbell (2011), Tom Oshiro (2010), Ted and Helen Hughes (2009), the late Jane Heffelfinger (2008), Ron Lou-Poy (2007), Fiona Hyslop (2006), and Mel Cooper (2005).

Leadership Victoria is a community-based, voluntary organization committed to developing, supporting, recognizing and honouring outstanding community leaders. Since its formation in 2000, it has become the go-to organization for community leadership in Greater Victoria, graduating over 250 leaders who work collaboratively to resolve the complex challenges facing our city.

A full list of this year’s award nominees is available at www.leadershipvictoria.ca and videos from last year's ceremony can be viewed on our YouTube channel.


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In this story

Keywords: award, community

People: Mickey Hajash, Donna Hajash

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