Local philanthropist leaves behind a lasting legacy

Tsawwassen's Ike Barber passed away last Friday at the age of 89

A Tsawwassen resident widely recognized as one of B.C.'s most prominent and generous entrepreneurs passed away last Friday.

Irving "Ike" Barber, founder of Slocan Forest Products Ltd., was 89.

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Barber was well known for his work on behalf of the B.C. forest industry, but his generosity also helped establish programs to promote research with the creation of the I.K. Barber Enhanced Forestry Laboratory at UNBC, the Irving K. Barber Chair in Diabetes Research at UBC and the Ike Barber Human Islet Transplant Laboratory at Vancouver Hospital in partnership with UBC.

In 2010, he provided Kwantlen Polytechnic University with $2.5 million for the Irving K. Barber Endowment for Educational Opportunities, which will fund programs to help students make the transition to university.

"I want this money to open the doors of post-secondary education to a segment of our society that would never otherwise attend university," Barber said at the announcement two years ago. "I'm one of those second chance people."

Established in 2004, the Irving K. Barber British Columbia Scholarship Society supports post-secondary education by providing scholarships for students attending public post-secondary institutions.

Announcing his passing, the society said, "Ike was passionate about education and worked tirelessly to inspire young people to pursue post-secondary studies. He was particularly interested in securing educational opportunities for aboriginal youth and for students living in remote communities. He lent his name to the Ike Barber Transfer Scholarship and assisted the society in securing the funding necessary to create the Aboriginal Student Award program."

Barber was appointed to the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia. He was given an honourary doctorate of law degree from the University of Northern British Columbia and an honourary law degree from the Justice Institute of B.C.

Born in Edmonton, Barber a Second World War veteran graduated with a bachelor of science degree from UBC in forestry in 1950. In 1952, he qualified as a professional registered forester and he was involved for six decades in the B.C. forest industry.

In 1978 at age 55, when most people are ready to retire, he founded Slocan Forest Products Ltd., which he built into one of the leading lumber producers in North America. Barber retired as chairman in 2002.

His biography by Kwantlen notes he credited this "second chance" at education as his starting point for the success he has enjoyed both personally and professionally, and the experience that has motivated him to become an ardent supporter of education.

UBC described Barber as" a visionary thinker who has a strong commitment to strengthening B.C. and improving the quality of life for B.C. residents."

Barber is survived by his wife Jean, three children, nine grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

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