The UNA-MN Board of Directors established the Harold E. Stassen Award in 2016 as the highest award the organization presents to a person of exceptional commitment and service to the association and/or like-minded organizations and/or the United Nations.
In 2022 the award was granted to Mehr “Jay” Shahidi.
Jay is a business owner and has served as a board member, vice president and president of the Minnesota division of the United Nations Association for almost 30 years. He also serves on the National Council of UNA.
Born in Iran, he came to the US for higher education and later became a citizen. He studied economics and political science at Minnesota State University, Mankato where he was student body president and received the university’s Distinguished Alumni Humanitarian Award for his work on public education, refugee protection, landmines removal, population stabilization, environmental protection, economic development, nuclear disarmament and peace building.
In 1975, Jay was accepted into the Ph. D. program in political science at the University of Cincinnati, but decided to go into business instead. He created the M.J. Shahidi Business Consulting Company, which has provided management services and advocacy for small business and civic groups. He also founded Decorative Construction Services, Inc., which provides building renovation and remodeling using environmentally healthy products.
In pursuit of his commitment to democratic exchange and international cooperation, Jay has founded or held leadership positions in over 40 business, civic and charitable organizations, including Amnesty International, Citizens for Global Solutions, Minnesota Peace Project, International Institute of Minnesota, Sierra Club, and others. In 1999 he began providing fundraising and advocacy services for the American Refugee Committee (now Alight) and served on its Board of Directors for 12 years.
Jay has done citizen lobbying at all levels of government for over 50 years, published dozens of opinion articles, and given over 800 public speeches on socio-political issues (most of which are related to the mission, agenda and operations of the United Nations). In addition, he has been a Great Decisions Lecturer for the Foreign Policy Association and Global Minnesota for over 15 years.
In June of 2019 Jay was awarded the Arnold Goodman Lifetime Achievement Award of the United Nations Association Foundation, to honor his 54 years of advocacy on behalf of the mission, agenda and programs of the United Nations.
Past Recipients include: Mark Ritchie, Stuart Ackman, Mr. James (Jim) Nelson, Congressman Arlen Erdahl, Dr. Joseph Schwartzberg, Representative Emily Ann Tuttle, Ambassador Robert Flaten, Ms. Leila Poulada, Ms. Diane Clayton, and Ms. Heather Branigin.