Class of 2008
James K. (J.K.) Irving is a native New Brunswicker who along with his brothers Art and Jack has carried on the work of his father at the Irving companies. As sons of industrialist K.C. Irving the three brothers had the benefit of growing up with a mentor who knew which end of a wheelbarrow to take hold of – a homespun phrase K.C. himself often used to describe someone with common sense.
Over the past 60 years J.K.’s drive and and entrepreneurial spirit has expanded the diverse businesses of J.D. Irving, Limited. Today the company employs over 15,000 people with operations in Canada and the United States.
J.K. Irving began his career in the woods of northern New Brunswick. Under his leadership an integrated group of valueadded forest products operations have expanded significantly. Today many of these mills are sustained by J.K. Irving’s strong commitment to reforestation - over 700 million trees planted since 1957 - a national record for any private company in Canada.
J.K. Irving continues to follow the basic formula learned from his father: build a great team of employees, invest, produce an excellent product, give superior service, and then reinvest again. Over the years he has expanded, renewed, and modernized the operations of J.D. Irving, Limited. These operations are North American leaders and include forest products, shipbuilding, agri-foods, transportation, and retail. Today, his sons Jim and Robert have taken up his legacy and are running the businesses.
Throughout his career, J.K. Irving’s primary motivation and greatest reward has been the challenge of building best-in-class businesses from the ground up with a team of people who share his passion for detail and quality. The completion of the largest single contract in Canadian history - 12 Canadian patrol frigates - ahead of schedule and below budget is but one example of his disciplined resolve to deliver the best possible performance.
J.K. Irving is also a dedicated builder of community and environmental initiatives. Under his leadership, J.D. Irving, Limited has received national and international honours for its many efforts in environmental research and habitat conservation. In more recent years he has focused on the development of New Brunswick’s youngest citizens through the award-winning “Pals for Prince Charles” business- education partnership initiated in 2000. The most encouraging result has been the growth of the program, impacting hundreds of young students in Greater Saint John.
In 1997 Mr. Irving’s contributions as a business and community leader in New Brunswick were recognized when he was inducted as an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Mr. Irving and his wife Jean (Saunders) reside in Rothesay. Mr. Irving credits his wife with providing the strong foundation of support and faith that has enabled him to succeed. They have four children and several grandchildren.