Our principles are guided by a fundamental belief in limited government, individual freedom, equality of opportunity, self-sufficiency, hard work, and resourcefulness.
The Herzstein Foundation pursues a mission to support free enterprise, strengthen families, preserve heritage, educate individuals and communities, and provide second chances where appropriate, encouraging individuals to realize their potential and ability to achieve their highest quality of life.
L. Michael Hajtman was born in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia to Josephine and Ladislav Hajtman on July 20, 1948. Michael determined at a young age to pursue his dream of a better life in America. In 1967, he escaped communism with the help of his cousin and relocated to Erie, Pennsylvania where he was warmly received by family. He graduated from Gannon University and worked for the Hayes family until moving to Houston, Texas for a business opportunity.
In Houston, Michael met his wife, Sandra, and they wed on July 26, 1985. The week before, he went to work for Mr. Albert Herzstein, who became his lifelong boss, mentor, and friend. Michael faithfully served with the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation for 38 years, becoming President after Mr. Herzstein’s death in 1997. One of his greatest desires as President of the Foundation was to carry on the legacy began by Al and Ethel Herzstein of giving back to the community that had afforded them so many opportunities, and he poured himself into every aspect of the foundation to ensure the Herzstein’s legacy carried on. He often said, “Love what you do, and you will never work a day in your life.” This was true for Michael as so many of his business associates were dear friends. He loved to say that he got to give money away for a living, who could ask for anything more.
Michael was passionate about many things. He enjoyed sailing, tennis, traveling, people, and the pure enjoyment of life. As one who grew up under communism, he never took the ideas of freedom, education, or happiness for granted. Every day was a good day.
Anyone who had the privilege of meeting Michael was quickly welcomed by his warm hospitality, Martini Hour, the best steak in town, dessert sausage, and a smile.
He will be remembered for his kindness, optimism, and willingness to share his unique perspective as an immigrant and his appreciation for his opportunities as an American.
Memories of my Grandfather
By Sarah Hearn
You say you’re ready to leave, but I’m not sure I am.
I know I should cling on and trust in God’s plan.
And be grateful that you’re at peace,
But, it’s a burden to me.
But I know you’re gonna see The Great I Am.
I just need to trust in God’s plan.
And I can see you laying in the downstairs bedroom,
Because the strength’s been taken out of your feet.
But no matter where your physical is at, Lord knows you’re not weak.
No. You were the American Dream.
I can hear the words you spoke, hoping they’d be your last,
Of encouragement and kindness for life, no matter where we’re at.
And I can see the pictures on your phone,
Of community right inside your home.
And I can see your iPhone 5
Hanging on for dear life.
Just like the mind of memories you hold,
Your stories never get old.
And I can see the books you kept,
And the t-shirts you collect,
And I can read the notes from family you left,
To find a better life and be independent.
You did the hard thing,
And you got the American Dream.
And I look at the paintings on my wall,
Of the boats you hoped to ride into the current of it all.
And I wear all the sweatshirts you gave me,
So I remember you, and freedom isn’t free.
So I remember your words to me.
So I remember the American Dream.
And when your body is hollow,
This soul will sorrow,
But I know you’ll enter the gates.
So I’ll get busy,
Doing the things you’d will me to,
Because I know you’d say there’s no time to waste.
And I hope I use your life to see,
There’s no time like the present
To go out and live the American Dream.
Nathan Harold Topek, M.D. was born in Houston, Texas on October 29, 1926. Dr. Topek grew up in the Houston area, enrolling in Rice University at the age of 16 and graduating from both Rice and Baylor College of Medicine as an Obstetrician/Gynecologist at the age of 22. He enlisted in the Air Force as a surgeon and served during the Korean War at Headquarters for Strategic Air Command in Omaha, Nebraska. He later returned to Houston to begin his practice in the Medical Center and west Houston.
Dr. Topek was dedicated to his work and loved being on the cutting edge of medicine. He was a founder of The Woman’s Hospital which developed the first pap smear clinic in the nation. This clinic set the standard for clinics across the United States, greatly advancing women’s health in America. Though Dr. Topek retired from The Woman’s Hospital in 1983, he continued to practice medicine at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center before officially retiring from medicine in 1998.
In 1997, after the passing of his dear friend Albert Herzstein, Dr. Topek was passionate in guiding the direction of the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation. He served the following twenty-one years alternating between Chairman and Director. Al Herzstein had a vision for his Foundation, and Dr. Topek’s loyalty to his friend was made evident by his devotion to Al’s intent and legacy. Included in Al’s vision was the commitment to the cause regardless of race, gender, or religion – true ecumenism, a hallmark of the Foundation he guarded.
Dr. Topek was a proud Houstonian, a proud American, and especially a proud Texan. He was straightforward, honest, and a man of high standards. He is fondly remembered for his humorous nature, handlebar mustache, and dedication to charitable causes. Dr. Topek leaves us with a legacy of service and leadership: service in medicine that benefited untold women and leadership in guiding the Foundation that has touched thousands in Houston and beyond.