On September 14, 2002, James, Arthur, and Jack Irving and their families kindly donated the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre and the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens to Acadia University in honour of their parents.

K.C. Irving and his wife Harriet Irving
K.C. Irving and Harriet Irving

Their father, K.C. Irving (1899-1992), was 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 opened his first gas station – and sold Ford cars. 

In 1927, he married Harriet Lila MacNarin (1899-1976) from Galloway, Kent County, New Brunswick, a kind, caring woman who loved her family and is remembered for helping others. Mrs. Irving loved her garden – her favourite flower, the mayflower, is featured in the emblem chosen for the K. C. Irving Centre. 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.

K.C. Irving is remembered and widely respected for his hard work and accomplishments in business, as an excellent teacher and a supportive friend. He had an avid curiosity about the world around him and a profound appreciation for nature. With the gift a place was created that would encourage ideas, 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, artistic and musical performances as it would be to formal scholarly gatherings, and that would be infused with the natural world.

K.C. Irving had an avid curiosity about the world around him and an appreciation for nature, especially tree reforestation. He is widely respected for his hard work and accomplishments in business and was one of the first to be inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame in 1979. 

Origins of the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre and the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens

In 1996, Acadia University President Dr. Kelvin Ogilvie asked Arthur Irving if he would consider taking on the role of chancellor. A proud alumnus, Arthur said, “I would like to, if I can do something for the students.”

The creation of a meeting place for students – known today as the Garden Room of the Irving Centre –  was inspired by Arthur’s student days at Acadia, and time together with his brother Jack and friends.

Dunkin’ Donuts, photo taken in 1949 at the Student Union Building with (left to right) Dick Bull, Fraser “Squix” Matheson, Jack Irving, Arthur Irving, Earl DeMont, Norm Layton, and John MacAskill.

The concept of the Irving Centre and the Harriet Irving Gardens evolved from early conversations between Arthur Irving, Sandra Irving, Kelvin Ogilvie, and landscape architect Alex Novell. As important as the social place was for students, they realized that establishing a strong academic program at the Centre would be a priority.

Sandra, Sarah and Arthur Irving

Today the K. C. Irving Environmental Science Centre and the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens are known as innovative places of learning where students study, give presentations, attend seminars, walk in the garden, hike the trails, attend musical and artistic performances in the Garden Room, and celebrate special occasions in the lives of students and the community.

Arthur Irving personally, and the Arthur L. Irving Family Foundation, remain committed to the K.C. Irving Centre and the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens in many ways. One such example is the thirty two Arthur Irving scholars (twenty five undergraduate and seven graduate) who represent the earliest spirit of Arthur Irving’s promise and the inspiration of the gift “to do something for the students.”   

The undergraduate and graduate experience at Acadia is further enhanced by research opportunities supported by a research director and research coordinator at the Centre. Arthur is similarly committed to maintaining the beauty and purpose of the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens, realizing that the Gardens, like the Centre, are essential in learning and research and student and community engagement. 

A lasting partnership with Irving Oil

For many years Irving Oil has been a strong, proud supporter and partner of Acadia University.

Together with his wife Sandra, daughter Sarah, Irving Oil President Ian Whitcomb and the company, Irving Oil’s Chairman, Arthur Irving, continues to champion Acadia University in providing opportunities for students as a proud supporter of scholarships, athletics, co-op opportunities, summer employment and student programming.

In 2012 Irving Oil in partnership with Ducks Unlimited and Acadia University officially opened the Beaubassin Research Centre on the Tantramar Marsh at the New Brunswick/Nova Scotia border, a project that had begun fifteen years earlier.  

Each year Irving Oil is proud to support student research at Beaubassin- aimed at better understanding and conserving the historical and cultural significance of the land and the natural environment and the wetland ecosystem of the Bay of Fundy.

Representatives of Acadia University, Ducks Unlimited Canada and Irving Oil come together with research students at Beaubassin Research Station.

Irving Oil also employs many Acadia University Alumni and regularly provides co-op educational opportunities to Acadia students in many degree programs. Providing opportunities for young people in Atlantic Canada is key for the success of this region.

Rebecca Keirstead, a Human Resources professional at Irving Oil, Acadia University Class of 2013.

Irving Oil has long been committed to Acadia University in providing opportunities for students in Atlantic Canada.