TRU suing estate of donor Irving K. Barber

University is seeking remainder of $1.5 million pledge made by Barber in 2010

Irving K. Barber at the announcement of the $1.5 million donation to the House of Learning assembly hall on June 17, 2010. (TRU)

Irving K. Barber at the announcement of the $1.5 million donation to the House of Learning assembly hall on June 17, 2010. (TRU)

Thompson Rivers University has undertaken a lawsuit against the estate of Irving K. Barber in order to obtain funds it says were promised to the university by Barber during the construction of the House of Learning.

The university is seeking $1.275 million plus interest and damages from those who oversee Barber’s estate. The lawsuit was originally filed in August 2014.

Barber pledged to donate $1.5 million to the university in 2010 as part of the construction of the House of Learning. To date, TRU has only received $225,000 towards that pledge according to court documents.

Barber was a Second World War veteran who said he was given a second chance when he went to UBC for a forestry degree in 1945. Following a very successful career as founder of Slocan Forest Products Ltd., Barber later became a prolific philanthropist and made donations to a number of Canadian universities, including to the University of British Columbia, where the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre building opened in 2008 as a result of Barber’s $20 million donation to UBC.

Barber visited TRU a number of times and was involved in the planning and construction of the House of Learning, including his visit on June 17, 2010, when the pledge to donate $1.5 million was publicly announced. In acknowledgment of the donation, TRU would name the assembly hall in the building the Irving K. Barber Centre.

According to TRU’s claim filed in 2014, Barber made an initial donation of $100,000 in 2010 and another donation of $125,000 in February 2012.

On April 13, 2012, however, Barber died at the age of 89.

TRU was later advised by the executor of Barber’s estate that the estate was insolvent and that Barber’s widow, Jean C. Barber, would become the sole beneficiary of the trust that remained.

In response to the lawsuit, those in control of the trust, which was created in 2003 between Barber and his spouse, say that it is not a party to the pledge and does not owe money to the university.

“At no time did Mr. Barber, either personally or as trustee of the spousal trust, say or do anything that led or was intended to lead the plaintiffs to believe that the spousal trust would operate other than in compliance with its terms and at the complete discretion of the trustee,” reads the responding document, which was filed at the Vancouver court registry on Dec. 14, 2015.

None of the claims have been heard in court. The most recent action taken in the case was on Jan. 19, 2016.

Documents related to this story
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TRU’s notice of claim filed August 2014 Response to civil claim filed December 2015