Petro Jacyk was born July 7, 1921 in Verkhnie Syniovydne, Ukraine. After immigrating to Canada in 1949, he established a successful building and land development firm. He generously supported the Ukrainian Encyclopedia project, and was instrumental in the establishment of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. He financed the Jacyk Collection of Ukrainian Serials, the Central and East European Resource Centre, the Endowment for Ukrainian Periodicals, and other projects at the University of Toronto Library.
In 1989, the Jacyk Centre for Ukrainian Historical Research was established at the University of Alberta based on Jacyk’s $1 million donation. The Centre’s projects include the English-language publication of Mykhailo Hrushevsky’s History of Ukraine-Rus’, two publication series in Ukraine and in the West, and archival projects. He has supported many other initiatives through the Petro Jacyk Educational Foundation, including the endowment of the Jacyk Ukrainian Studies Program at Columbia University in New York (1994) and the Jacyk Lectureship in Ukrainian Studies at the University of London (1991).
In 1995, Petro Jacyk received an honorary Doctorate of Law from the University of Alberta. President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine honoured Petro Jacyk with the Presidential Prize of Ukraine for his patronage of Ukrainian culture, education, and scholarship in 1996. In 2000, Petro Jacyk was honoured for his philanthropy with the Yaroslav the Wise Order award, Ukraine’s highest distinction presented to civilians in service to Ukraine.