A decision by TRU to sue the estate of one its most generous benefactors — and one of B.C.’s best known philanthropists — wasn’t made easily, the university’s vice-president of advancement said Thursday.
Christopher Seguin described the decision to take action against the estate of Irving K. Barber was “incredibly difficult” and made only after TRU could not obtain access to estate documents.
Barber died at age 89 in 2012, two years after he pledged $1.5 million to the institution for Irving K. Barber Centre in the Brown Family House of Learning at TRU. At the time of his death, only $225,000 of that pledge had been received.
“We felt his vision of TRU was clear,” Sequin said. “We felt it was our due diligence to investigate the estate and the pledge that Ike had made. It’s important to fight for the will of the donor whether he’s alive or passed. We want to make sure we do right by Ike.”
Seguin said they have a pledge agreement that states it is valid against the Barber estate.
When TRU administration approached the trustees of Barber’s estate to ask about the remaining funds, they were told that there were no additional funds available and that the financial obligation ended with Barber's death. When they requested proof of that through documentation, they were denied the documents.
That put the university in a difficult position, having to form a plan for coming up with the remainder of the pledged funds while paying for project long completed. A notice of claim was brought by TRU in 2014 and the university filed its civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court in December 2015.
“We may have to find other funds to pay for the Brown Family House of Learning completion,” Sequin said.
He said the turn of events doesn’t change the esteem held for Barber.
“He will always be remembered as one of our kindest philanthropists.”
Barber made his fortune in the B.C. forest industry as founder of Slocan Forest Products. A veteran of the Second World War and graduate of UBC, he went on to become one of B.C.'s most prominent education philanthropists and donated to schools across the province.