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Acadia mourns Arthur L. Irving

A giant in the Acadia community has passed away. Following the passing earlier today of Arthur L. Irving, Acadia has lost its most vigorous defender, ardent ambassador, enthusiastic cheerleader, and generous benefactor.

There are hardly words sufficient to express the depths of our condolences to Arthur鈥檚 family and friends, but even in our grief we are grateful for the more than seven decades of his life he shared with Acadia.   

Growing up in Saint John, New Brunswick and like many before and since, Arthur became a student at Acadia because of a family connection. His father, K.C. Irving, had been a student here, and Arthur and his two brothers, Jim (鈥50, 鈥03 DCL) and Jack (鈥54, 鈥03 DCL) Irving, and other family members followed that tradition. Arthur鈥檚 wife, Sandra, is also an alum (鈥74) and received an honorary degree from Acadia in 2017 in recognition of, among other things, her philanthropic leadership.

Arthur鈥檚 success in business, and in life, was founded on his belief in the importance of people and relationships. We are all the beneficiaries of his genuine warmth, his hearty handshake and ready smile. While Arthur may claim that his time spent at Acadia helped shape him as a person, he in turn has shaped the lives of countless members of the Acadia family.

Arthur was installed as Acadia鈥檚 Chancellor in 1996 and thoroughly enjoyed the work. So much so that he became the longest-serving Chancellor in the University鈥檚 history, stepping down in 2010 after three terms and more than 13 years of service on the job!

Acadia鈥檚 students were always a special focus of Arthur鈥檚 attention 鈥 at each Convocation ceremony he reminded graduating students of all the wonderful things they can accomplish with their Acadia degrees and implored them to 鈥渞emember your parents鈥 and 鈥渞emember Acadia.鈥

Arthur practiced what he preached. When he accepted the invitation to become Acadia鈥檚 Chancellor, he did so on the condition that he could, in his words, 鈥渄o something for Acadia.鈥 A conversation over breakfast with Sandra while musing about his love of people and the outdoors led him to envision a genuine and unique gift that would have deep meaning for generations of Acadia students and faculty.

In September 2002, Arthur, Jim, and Jack, along with their families, graced Acadia鈥檚 campus with the opening of the . This lasting tribute to their father, Kenneth Colin Irving (鈥21), and their mother, Harriet Lila Irving, was designed and built to be a place where nature, research, and technology come together in a peaceful and productive environment. The attention to detail in this now vital gathering place on campus is emblematic of what could serve as the Irving family motto: 鈥淎nything worth doing is worth doing well.鈥

Arthur took a personal interest in the centre and gardens, visiting often, offering wise counsel, and lending support in countless ways. The K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre and Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens are very special spots on our campus and 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. Often referred to as Acadia鈥檚 living room, we gather here to celebrate special occasions in our community.

Arthur and Sandra expressed their affection for Acadia鈥檚 students and faculty beyond the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre and the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens, sometimes through the Arthur L. Irving Family Foundation, to include the in partnership with Irving Oil and in many other ways too numerous to count. One example that comes to mind for me, for which I know Arthur was especially proud, are of the and Athletes who represent the essence of his promise to and aspirations for our students.

Arthur provided faculty, staff, and students with a living example of Acadia鈥檚 motto, in pulvere vinces 鈥 metaphorically, through hard work, we succeed. Regularly asking himself 鈥 鈥淲hat can I do for Acadia today?鈥 鈥 he made his beloved Acadia a better place, and, in the process, he has taught us a great deal about leadership, kindness, tenacity, and generosity.

Acadia will never be able to repay Arthur for his lifetime of service to his alma mater, though we tried by making Arthur Acadia鈥檚 Chancellor Emeritus, awarding him an honorary degree, and establishing the Arthur L. Irving University Medal to stand among Acadia鈥檚 highest honours for individuals with a strong connection to Acadia and whose accomplishments and contributions have brought eminence to our University. Recipients must walk in Arthur鈥檚 footsteps by demonstrating an unsurpassed commitment to the future success of Acadia and by making a unique contribution to its reputation.

We mourn Arthur鈥檚 passing and extend our love and sympathies to Sandra, daughters Jennifer, Emily, and Sarah, and sons Kenneth and Arthur along with all of Arthur鈥檚 extended family and close friends as they, like us, come to terms with their monumental loss.

I invite you to spend some time reflecting on the unparalleled life of Arthur Irving and the impact he has had on Acadia. Perhaps do this while visiting the or in person, or by seeking out , the book published by the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre and Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens in 2021, celebrating the of one of the greatest gifts to Acadia.

Thank you, Arthur. The Acadia family will always remember you.

Jeffrey J. Hennessy, PhD
President and Vice-Chancellor
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Share your condolences

For those wishing to express their sentiments in writing, condolence books are placed on campus at the Manning Memorial Chapel and the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre. Your messages will serve as a lasting tribute to Mr. Irving鈥檚 family, and we will share them with Sandra and Sarah as a keepsake.

Mr. Irving's is a testament to his life鈥檚 work; we also invite you read this tribute and online.

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