K.C. Irving & Harriet Irving

In an extraordinary act of generosity, James, Arthur and John Irving and their families donated the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre and Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens to Acadia University on September 14, 2002.

Kenneth Colin Irving (1899-1992) loved to see things grow, both in business and in the natural world. Born in Bouctouche, New Brunswick, he was a student at Acadia University from 1916 to 1917, leaving early to serve overseas in the Royal Flying Corps. At the end of World War One, he returned to his home village where he operated a gasoline station.

In 1927, he married Harriet Lila MacNarin from Galloway, Kent County, New Brunswick, a kind, caring woman who always showed a special interest in others and the natural world around her. Mrs. Irving’s favorite flower, the mayflower, is featured in our emblem. The emblem also contains a honeybee, symbolizing hard work and pollination, and a Scotch thistle, representing Scotland, the Irving family's ancestral home and the country for which Nova Scotia is named.

While he is widely respected for his hard work and accomplishments in business, K.C. Irving is remembered by those who knew him as an excellent teacher and a supportive friend who had a deep interest in people. He had an avid curiosity about the world around him, and a profound appreciation for nature.

With their gift, the Irving family intended to create a place that would encourage the cross-fertilization of ideas through relaxed interaction between groups of students, faculty, and community. It would be a place where students would be able to study, hold seminars, and give presentations; that would be as conducive to poetry readings and artistic performances as it would be to formal scholarly gatherings; and that would be infused with the natural world.