Titan of industry and friend of Dalhousie, Arthur Irving, dies at 93

- May 13, 2024

Arthur Irving at the official opening of Dalhousie's Irving Oil Auditorium in 2017. (File photos)
Arthur Irving at the official opening of Dalhousie's Irving Oil Auditorium in 2017. (File photos)

Dalhousie lost a close friend and community member on Monday (May 13, 2024), when business magnate Arthur Irving, 93, the chairman emeritus of Irving Oil, died. His legacy will live on at Dalhousie, especially through the Irving Oil Auditorium, and through his support of Dal Engineering students.

Irving was born in 1930 in Saint John, N.B., the son of industrialist K.C. Irving. He was educated at Acadia University, where he later served as Chancellor from 1996 to 2010.

He became president of Irving Oil in in 1972. Today, Irving Oil operates Canada's largest refinery in Saint John, processing about 320,000 barrels a day. Irving Oil has more than 900 fuelling locations and a network of distribution terminals spanning Eastern Canada and New England, plus it also operates Ireland's only refinery, Whitegate.

A Canadian Business Hall of Fame Member (2008) and Officer of the Order of Canada (2002), Irving demonstrated a strong enthusiasm for people, education, and his community.

Generously supporting Dalhousie

In 2017, Irving was in Halifax to announce Irving Oil’s $2.2-million gift to the Dalhousie’s IDEA Project (Innovation and Design in Engineering and Architecture) on Sexton campus. The gift continues to enhance the entire student experience, support new infrastructure and financial awards, and cultivate a culture of safety among engineering students.

At the heart of Irving’s investment was support for the construction of the 450-seat Irving Oil Auditorium, a state-of-the-art learning space, designed to meet the needs of engineering students. This space has been transformative for the engineering student experience, allowing full classes to convene on Sexton campus. It is also a cherished space for industry and community to bring groups together.

Arthur Irving visiting campus while the Irving Oil Auditorium was under construction.

Additionally, he supported high-performing engineering students who have completed their second year of studies. Besides providing several scholarships annually, the multi-year commitment includes the potential for a co-op placement with Irving Oil for each recipient, providing invaluable work experience for engineers of the future. 

“Arthur Irving was a cherished friend of the Faculty of Engineering. He valued education, and his gift not only enriches students’ experiences on campus, but the scholarships he created continues to give our students opportunities to get hands-on learning experiences through co-ops at Irving Oil,” says Dalhousie’s Dean of Engineering, John Newhook. “Additionally, Arthur was a true believer in the potential of the Maritimes. His dedication to our region included creating opportunities to train and keep future leaders here on Canada’s East Coast and that will continue into the foreseeable future.”

Upon announcing the 2017 gift to Dalhousie, Irving said: “With this gift, we are happy to support the Faculty of Engineering at Dalhousie University, knowing we look to Dalhousie and other Atlantic Canadian universities for our best employees at Irving Oil. Atlantic Canada’s success depends on the quality and skill of our youth — and we know Dalhousie is up to the challenge.”

Dal awards Sandra Irving an honorary degree

Irving returned to Dalhousie in 2019 when his wife Sandra L. Irving (LLD’19), a community leader and champion of education and health-care research, was made an honorary degree recipient. In her remarks at Dalhousie’s Spring 2019 Convocation, Sandra said, “Arthur, thank you for working hard your whole life, to make our gifts to others possible.”

Sandra Irving chatting with students at the official opening of the Irving Oil Auditorium.

The Dalhousie community is deeply grateful for the impact Arthur made and the example he set. Flags on campus are being lowered in honour of Arthur Irving’s long-standing connections and contributions to Dal and the region.


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