KAYA Remembers Maria Luisa Mabilangan Haley

KAYA Remembers Maria Luisa Mabilangan Haley

Statement by KAYA National Leadership

We mourn the loss of a pioneer in our community, Tita Maria Luisa Mabilangan Haley, who passed away earlier this month.

Maria was recruited by then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton to head the international and marketing divisions of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission (now the AEDC). She campaigned for his Presidential campaign and was later ppointed Senior Advisor for Asian American Affairs for Clinton/Gore. She was the first Filipino American in U.S. history to be confirmed by the Senate. She served twice in the White House at the Presidential Personnel Office (PPO). She participated in the development of personnel systems and hiring processes of the Clinton/Gore Administration. From 1993-1994. She was point of contact selection and approval of three economic development agencies: Commerce, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and 12 independent executive agencies. From 1999-2001, she 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.

These are just a few significant contributions in her career in public service. You can read more about Maria and how to contribute to her memorial here.

Maria Mabilangan Haley exemplifies KAYA’s mission. She was truly a pioneer who paved the path for many of us. She played a key role in the creation of President Clinton’s White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). Currently, Filipino Americans continue to lead this initiative: Christina Lagdameo serves as Deputy Director of the Initiative; Rozita Villanueva Lee and Hector Leonard Perez Vargas Jr. serve on the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs).

Maria’s legacy will continue as our community aspires to meet the excellence in public service and politics that she demonstrated throughout her lifetime.

Full biography here

Maria Luisa Mabilangan Haley, Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) and a woman whose career in public service, economic development and international business and trade spanned four decades, two Arkansas governors and the presidents of two nations, died Tuesday night, September 13 in Little Rock. She was 70. Born in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation, Ms. Haley began her life living in a small hut hiding from enemy soldiers.
Upon the granting of independence to the Philippines, Ms. Haley’s father, Felipe Mabilangan, Sr., a political science professor, joined the Filipino Diplomatic Corp as an ambassador, and at age 10 Ms. Haley began what she often referred to as her journeys and adventures. As the daughter of a diplomat, Ms. Haley was educated and traveled all over the world, living in India, Pakistan, France, Spain and Laos. She credited her father for inspiring her love of democracy and public service and her mother, Felisa Hugo Mabilangan, a grade school teacher, for teaching her strength, discipline and graciousness. All of these traits were the benchmarks of Ms. Haley’s life and career. That career began in the Philippines in 1966 as Sales Manager for the Manila Hilton, the first international hotel in the Philippines, where she traveled extensively to develop new markets worldwide.
In 1971, Ms. Haley immigrated to the United States to become a U.S. citizen and the bride of Mr. John Haley, a prominent Little Rock attorney who is now deceased. Ms. Haley described coming to Arkansas by saying, “I fell in love with John and the moment I set foot in Arkansas I fell in love with the state. I had an instant family with three wonderful children. This is home. This is where I belong.” Throughout her amazing life and career, Ms. Haley has remained close to her Arkansas family and recounted her time with them as some of her most precious. As an Arkansan, Ms. Haley began her career in the United States in executive management with Fairfield Communities, Inc. but was soon recruited by then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton to head the international and marketing divisions of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission (now the AEDC). While serving her first Arkansas Governor, Ms. Haley used her international experience to move Arkansas forward by heading Arkansas’ foreign trade offices in Brussels, Tokyo and Taipei, and taking responsibility for international economic development of the State, including exports and foreign investments. Ms. Haley was fond of saying, “that under Governor Bill Clinton’s watch, exports and foreign investments tripled.” When Governor Bill Clinton decided to run for President, Ms. Haley hit the campaign trail early on his behalf, where she was appointed Senior Advisor for Asian American Affairs for Clinton/Gore. In this capacity, Ms. Haley traveled across the country making speeches, heading rallies and mobilizing Asian American support for the Clinton/Gore campaign.
In California, Ms. Haley would laughingly recall that her campaign van was aptly named, “Haley’s Comet for Clinton/Gore.” Upon the election of President William Jefferson Clinton, Ms. Haley joined her President in Washington, D.C. in November 1992 as The Deputy Personnel Director for the Clinton/Gore transition team. Upon inauguration she joined him in the White House as Special Assistant to the President and Associate Director of Presidential Personnel for Economics, Commerce and Trade. In 1994, Ms. Haley was nominated by President Clinton, and confirmed by the Senate twice, to serve as a member of the Board for The Export Import Bank of the United States.
Ms. Haley was proud to be the first Filipino American in U.S. history to be confirmed by the Senate. Ms. Haley’s charge from the President was to increase the Bank’s capacity for providing trade financing to small business with a goal of setting aside 10% of the Bank financing for small business. In Ms. Haley’s usual overachieving fashion, five years later the Bank small business portfolio had grown to 21%. Ms. Haley was also the first Ex-Im Bank Board member to travel to Africa, chairing the Bank Africa task force and opening opportunities for U.S. exports to the continent.
In July 1999, Ms. Haley was asked to return to the White House to serve as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Presidential Personnel, where she staffed the President, the Chief of Staff, and the Director in the selection and approval of Senate confirmed cabinet, sub-cabinet and senior level appointments. Upon her departure from the White House in the early morning hours of January 20, 2001, Ms. Haley said, “I left the White House still awed by its beauty, —- and grateful to my President for the experience and the memories.”
In her five years with the AEDC, Ms. Haley’s tireless energy and love for Arkansas was expressed in her record of accomplishments at AEDC. Governor Mike Beebe lauded Ms. Haley saying, “Maria Haley did more for the State of Arkansas than most people will ever know. Her tireless mission to create and keep jobs in Arkansas was a primary factor in our ability to ride out the recession as well as we have. After living all over the world, Maria made Arkansas her adopted home, and dedicated herself to its betterment for more than 30 years. She was one of the first people I wanted on my team when I became governor, and she will be dearly missed as a friend and colleague.” As a proponent for women, Ms. Haley also frequently talked about the importance of “sisterhood” and the importance of preserving and nurturing her relationships with her “girlfriends.” She has said, “I could not have lived my life as happy and fulfilled without the support and love of my female friends.” Her sisterhood around the world will dearly miss Ms. Haley.
In her acceptance speech to the Lions World Services for the Blind Vision Awards Luncheon, Ms. Haley summed up her life this way, “I came here as an immigrant bride…24 years later I walked down Air Force One with the President of the United States. Only in this great country can this happen. America and Arkansas have given me tremendous opportunities..and now… I want to give back.”
In her career, Ms. Haley has received numerous prestigious awards, including the 1997 Ronald H. Brown Export Enhancement Award from the Small Business Exporters Association, the 2000 Stan Suyat Memorial Leadership Award from the Asian American Government Executives Network, the 2000 Philippine Presidential Award given by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, and the 2010 Vision Award given by the Lions World Services for the Blind Foundation. She was a charter member of the Arkansas Women’s Forum—affiliated with the International Women’s Forum.
Ms. Haley is survived by her brother, Ambassador Felipe Mabilangan, her sister-in-law, Ada Ledesma Mabilangan, her nephew, Jose L. Mabilangan and nieces, Anne Marie M. Ozaeta and Lisa M. Coory; Also her stepchildren, John S. Haley and wife Danette, Susan Betts and husband, Mark, and David C. Haley and wife Lori. She also leaves eight beloved grandchildren, John C. Adams, Anne L. Haley, David Haley, Andrew J. Adams, Colleen Haley, P. Conner Haley, Lauren N. Haley, and Katherine Haley.

“I came here as an immigrant bride…24 years later I walked down the steps of Air Force One in my home country with the President of the United States. Only in this great country can this happen. America and Arkansas have given me tremendous opportunities…and now… I want to give back.”
-Maria Haley, acceptance speech to the Lions World Services for the Blind Vision Awards, November, 2010.

Contributions in memory of Maria may be made to Community and Family Services International and mailed to:

Maria Haley Memorial
Care of Delta Trust and Bank
PO Box 17607
Little Rock,  AR  72222

Community and Family Services International (CFSI) is a non-profit, humanitarian organization working closely with the United Nations system to protect and assist refugees and persons displaced by armed conflict, natural disaster, and other exceptionally difficult circumstances in Asia (www.cfsi.ph).

Based in the Philippines and now celebrating its 30th year of distinguished service, CFSI helps meet the basic needs of these uprooted populations and prevents displacement by promoting peace, respect for human rights, and the equitable distribution of resources.  Maria had a long relationship with this organization and recently raised funds and resources to build a permanent classroom at the Inug-Ug Elementary School in Mindanao, Philippines.

Contact Information for Family
Please send letters or cards to Maria’s staff at the AEDC. They will ensure that everything gets to the family.

Ambassador and Mrs. Felipe Mabilangan
c/o Shelley Short
Arkansas Economic Development Commission
900 West Capitol Avenue,  Suite 400,
Little Rock, AR 72201


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