Peter Jacyk: A Biography

Petro Jacyk was primarily a builder, and in his philanthropic activities-just as in his business work in the construction industry-he strived to erect a solid edifice of Ukrainian studies in the West.

One of the first projects Mr. Jacyk supported was the multivolume Entsyklopediia ukraïnoznavstva (Encyclopedia of Ukrainian Studies), which he recognised as an indispensable foundation for Ukrainian studies. The next stage of this work was realised in Canada with the publication of the English-language Encyclopedia of Ukraine. The second aspect of constructing firm foundations for Ukrainian studies in the West was the publication of an essential history of Ukraine in English. Following extensive consultations with historians and other specialists, Mykhailo Hrushevsky's monumental History of Ukraine-Rus′ was chosen as that work, one which would present the history of Ukraine to the world in an authoritative manner. Following a $1,000,000 donation by Petro Jacyk to the University of Alberta (matched two-to-one by the Government of Alberta), the Peter Jacyk Centre for Ukrainian Historical Research was established at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies to deal with the translation and publication of this multivolume work. The English-language volumes have won international acclaim for their high standards of translation and editing.

It was on these foundations-an essential history that would represent the Ukrainian people before the world and a national encyclopedia defining the heritage of Ukraine-that Mr. Jacyk foresaw the further building of the edifice of Ukrainian studies in the West. He established the Petro Jacyk Education Foundation and explored initiatives at prestigious universities-Harvard, Alberta, Columbia, and Toronto. In effect, Mr. Jacyk then began building what might be called the walls and roof of this edifice-initiatives that would inform the world about Ukraine and Ukrainians. He established three programs for the study of contemporary Ukraine: the Peter Jacyk Ukrainian Studies Program at Columbia University, the Peter Jacyk Distinguished Fellowship Program at Harvard University, and the Petro Jacyk Program for the Study of Ukraine at the University of Toronto. In 2008, the Petro Jacyk Education Foundation also established the Peter Jacyk Program for the Study of Modern Ukrainian History and Society, in cooperation with the Ivan Franko National University and the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. Mr. Jacyk's dedication to Ukrainian studies was recognized by the University of Alberta with an honorary doctorate in 1995. Today his educational and philanthropic work is continued by his daughter, Nadia Jacyk.

The remarkable life and legacy of Peter Jacyk are related in two publications: Ukraïnets′, iakyi vidmovyvsia buty bidnym, by M. Slaboshpyts′kyi (1994), and Leaving Home, by John L. Reynolds (2013).