As a trustee of the UC Santa Barbara Foundation, Eva Haller is devoted to mentorship. Over three decades, Haller's support has moved many academic departments including anthropology, religious studies and dance, as well as the library and College of Letters & Science. Haller also has a passion for art and has given extensively to UCSB Arts & Lectures and the campus’s Art, Design & Architecture Museum.
Haller’s generosity does not stop here. Her and her husband, Yoel Haller, have made a recent donation of a monumental sculpture by artist Fletcher Benton along with funds for its conservation.
“Eva and Yoel’s gift is a way of advancing the mission of the university as a complete intellectual and scholarly and teaching landscape, in the sciences, the humanities and the arts—all at comparable levels of excellence,” says museum director E. Bruce Robertson.
In 2013, humanitarian and activist Eva Haller received the inaugural Forbes Magazine Award for Excellence in Mentoring. That occasion, which happened to also be her 83rd birthday, proved that she has a special gift.
“Not until that award did I ever think about or analyze what do I love to do and how do I do it,” Haller says. “But mentoring I’ve been doing all my life and I love it. Watching young people create something new that is important, and change their lives, is my passion. I think of myself as an incubator, and it’s really a wonderful role to have in life.”
Haller has a truly inspiring story. She was born and raised in Hungary, and was a teenager during World War II. Her parents sent her to a Scottish mission where she became a refuge, which ultimately saved her life. Her brother, a Hungarian resistance participant, distributed anti-Nazi leaflets, which led to his arrest and death. Her brother is forever her inspiration.
“He died for what he believed in,” she says. “I’m not giving my life, but I can give my time and support.” And giving is what she did and continues to do.
In 1952, Haller arrived in New York as an activist for women’s rights, civil rights, and anti-war protests. She also earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work during this time. With these degrees, she has served many organizations including Free the Children, Sing for Hope, Women for Women International, Jane Goodall Institute, and UC Santa Barbara Foundation.
“Life is all about passion,” says Haller. “What is your passion? If your passion is sharing and giving and charity and those kinds of things that make your endorphins grow, then that’s what you do. And if that’s the direction you’re going in, I’m pleased to help, if I can, with any suggestion, connection or introduction. That’s who I am.”