Prominent Canadian and British Columbian Irving K. Barber passed away peacefully at home on April 13 at the age of 89 after a long illness.
“Ike,” as he preferred to be called, graduated from UBC’s Faculty of Forestry in 1950, having previously served during World War II for five years with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
“Ike was a great Canadian, a great British Columbian and a great friend of UBC,“ said UBC President Stephen Toope. “He believed passionately in education as the way to create citizens of the world and to improve life for all in B.C. Ike was a visionary, but he also remained very involved personally with the projects he supported. His contributions to our campuses have been dramatic and permanent – Ike’s contributions will benefit people from all over for generations to come. “
In 1978, Barber founded Slocan Forest Products Limited, building it into one of North America’s leading lumber producers. He retired as chairman in 2002.
Dr. Barber – who received an honorary degree from UBC in 2002 – was instrumental in establishing programs to promote education and research throughout B.C. He had a life-long belief in the value of education and the importance of access to education, regardless of income, especially in remote communities of the province.
Dr. Barber remained closely involved with UBC both in Vancouver and in the Okanagan. The Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, to which he donated $20 million in 2006, remains a world-leading facility and a hub of the Vancouver campus and accessible worldwide. In, 2004 he donated $10 million to establish the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences and the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre Interface Program at UBC’s campus in the Okanagan.
Dr. Barber's endowment supports many important initiatives in the Okanagan, including the Distinguished Speaker Series, the International Education Travel Subsidy program for students, Curricular Innovation Awards to encourage innovative approaches to learning and pedagogy, and the Undergraduate Research Awards program, which provides opportunities for undergraduate arts and sciences students at UBC's Okanagan campus to pursue innovative and original research as part of their learning experience.
He is survived by his wife Jean, whom he married in 1943, his three children, Linda (Brooke) Williams, James (Lynne) Barber and Gregory (Linda) Barber, nine grandchildren and 17 great grandchildren. A Celebration of Life service is planned for June.