ON SEPTEMBER 13, America and the Philippines lost one of its most outstanding leaders – Maria Mabilangan Haley, who died from brain aneurysm.
The highest-ranking and most influential Filipino-American official during the Clinton administration, Maria Haley received the highest tributes from top US officials, praising her for an outstanding and inspiring life and admirable work.
Truly, Maria Haley’s life is a model of a life well-lived.
Born in the Philippines seventy years ago, Maria Luisa Mabilangan-Haley was the daughter of a Philippine diplomat.
She was educated in India, Pakistan, France and Spain. She lived and worked in 7 countries in Asia and Europe before immigrating to the United States and becoming a US citizen.
No wonder, President Bill Clinton said Maria “was really a world citizen, who never lost contact with her native nation, the Philippines.”
At the time of her passing, Haley was the Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), appointed by Gov. Mike Beebe following his election in 2006. This cabinet agency of more than 100 employees leads statewide economic development, creates targeted strategies that produce better paying jobs, promotes communities, and supports the training and growth of a 21st century skilled workforce.
Former President Bill Clinton called her a “great public servant, a wonderful person and friend for more than 30 years.”
“We mourn her passing,” the former president said in a statement. “We must also be very grateful for her life,” said Clinton who referred to his late adviser as “invaluable” to the economic arena. “Thousands of people in Arkansas, throughout the United States, and in the Philippines, benefited from Maria Haley’s life-long commitment to bring economic opportunities to more people,” he said.
Haley moved to Arkansas in 1971, when she married John Haley, a lawyer.
In 1979, she joined the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission, where she focused primarily on international business. She was in charge of the state’s offices in Brussels, Tokyo and Taipei, and she also coordinated Governor Clinton’s overseas trade trips.
Haley divorced her husband in the early 1990s. He died in a plane crash in 2003.
Ms. Haley was an official of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission (AIDC) from 1979 to 1992. She served in numerous capacities as an International Marketing Consultant, Director of International and National Marketing and Director of Communications. She was in charge of the Arkansas overseas offices in Brussels, Tokyo and Taipei. She coordinated then Governor Bill Clinton’s trade and investment missions overseas and was staff adviser to the governor on trade at the National Governors’ Association. She served as Protocol Officer for the State and the governor’s office for 10 years.
Haley began working with Clinton when he was the governor of the US state of Arkansas. She served in the White House at the Presidential Personnel Office (PPO).
From January 1993 to October 1994, as Special Assistant to the President and Associate Director of PPO, she participated in the development of personnel systems and hiring processes of the Clinton/Gore Administration. She was the White House point of contact for the selection and approval of three economic development agencies: Commerce, Transportation and HUD and 12 independent executive agencies.
The former president nominated Haley to the Export Import Bank of the United States, where she was part of the board from 1994 to 1999. She helped manage a $55 billion portfolio aimed at promoting US exports, business development and international investments. She was the congressionally mandated advocate for small business, and financing for small business exports doubled during her tenure. She also initiated and led the Bank’s Africa program initiatives, resulting in a significant increase in bank financing and activities in the continent.
From 1999 to 2001, Haley returned to the White House as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of PPO. She managed the day-to-day operations of PPO, participated in legislative strategies on confirmation of Presidential nominees, and was in charge of the Schedule C operation, which is the selection and approval process of more than 1,500 junior-level appointments.
In 2001 and 2002, Ms. Haley served as an adviser to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the Philippine government.
From 2001 to 2007, Ms. Haley was Senior Director for Asia with Kissinger McLarty Associates (KMA), a partnership headed by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former White House Chief of Staff and Envoy for the Americas, Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty.
During Haley’s tenure at AEDC, Arkansas landed major projects including Graphic Packaging (Fort Smith) Hewlett-Packard (Conway), LM Windpower (Little Rock), Mars (Fort Smith), Mitsubishi (Fort Smith) and Nordex (Jonesboro). There were also significant expansion projects secured under her direction from companies like Dassault Falcon Jet (Little Rock), Georgia-Pacific (Crossett), Golden Living (Fort Smith) Saint-Gobain (Saline County), Southwest Power Pool (Little Rock) and Windstream Corp. (Little Rock).
In a statement, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe lauded Haley’s dedication to “create and keep jobs” that became the state’s anchor during the recession.
“Maria Haley did more for the State of Arkansas than most people will ever know,” Beebe said. “After living all over the world, Maria made Arkansas her adopted home, and dedicated herself to its betterment for more than 30 years.”
The National Federation of Filipino American Associations also has all praises for Haley. In a statement from their National Chairman Ed Navarra, NaFFAA said, “Ms. Haley was a strong voice for Filipino American empowerment, providing much needed advice, assistance and encouragement to community leaders in their efforts to build a national presence in Washington DC in the mid-1990s. She was especially attentive to the needs of Filipino Americans who were seeking elected office or pursuing opportunities for public service.”
Haley received numerous honors and awards, including the Ron Brown Award for Advancing Trade Opportunities from the US Small Business Exporters Association, the 2000 Stan Suyat Memorial Leadership Award from the Asian American Government Executives Network, and the Philippine Presidential Award by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, and the 2006 Corporate Leadership Award from Filipinas Magazines.
But the best honor and accolades truly come from the tributes of her legion of friends and associates. Two of the most fitting praises come from Tom Kirk, chairman of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Randy Zook from Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas.
Kirk said, “Maria was an inspiration to everyone she came into contact with.” Zook described her as “one of those people that put everything she had into what she did, whatever it was. Maria was one of those exceptional leaders – she gave her best and she expected your best. I think Maria leaves a legacy of service that is really extraordinary and is really a testament to the power of her personality.”
(LA Weekend Sept 17-20, 2011 Sec A pg.10)