Class of 1979
Kenneth Colin Irving was born in 1899 in Buctouche, New Brunswick. Sometimes heralded as New Brunswick’s first modern entrepreneurial industrialist, K.C. Irving founded the Irving group of companies. His empire includes not only pulp, paper, and oil refining, but also publishing and broadcasting.
As a teenager Irving became an expert auto mechanic and was known for his strong work ethic. However, this passion did not always translate to his studies and Irving left Acadia University before graduation to travel across the country. He then enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps as a fighter pilot, although the war ended before he saw action.
When the post-WWI years brought a boom in car sales, K.C. recognized a business opportunity and acted swiftly. Building a gas station and acquiring a Ford dealership, K.C. also offered his mechanical expertise to customers and even managed his father’s oil franchise for a period of time. In 1924, a dispute with Imperial Oil inspired him to establish the Irving Oil Company. The modestly small network of rural gas stations eventually transformed into a primary petroleum retailer with several thousand gas stations and convenience stores. The company’s success allowed K.C. to finance his future business ventures.
In the 1930s, K.C. began to take over bus and trucking companies that were heavily in debt to Irving Oil. By 1936, Irving owned buses, trucks, ships and tanks; all the means of transportation necessary for the shipping of his oil. Upon his father’s death, K.C. also acquired the family lumber business.
Irving lived a life of exceptional achievement and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1989. He also contributed to the growth and preservation of his country, developing New Brunswick’s first major reforestation program.
K.C. Irving passed away in 1992; today the Irving group of companies is owned and operated by his three sons, James, Arthur, and Jack, and their children.