Eric Lafferty Harvie was born in Orillia, Ontario, but moved to Alberta as a youth. He was called to Alberta’s legal bar in 1915. His legal career was interrupted when he served in World War I, where he reached the rank of captain. When Mr. Harvie returned to Calgary from the war, he further developed his career as a lawyer. It was there that he married Dorothy Jean Southam in 1919, with whom he had three children.
He started into the oil business in the 1940s, when he was paid for his legal services in mineral rights by someone unable to afford their legal fees. This encouraged his interest in the energy sector, and it became the way Harvie earned his fortune: he held mineral rights to property in Leduc prior to the big oil strike in 1947, and in the Redwater oil fields in 1949.
Along with his business interests, Mr. Harvie became well known as a generous community supporter and philanthropist. In 1954, Harvie created the Glenbow Foundation to support his passion for preserving the history of western Canada and the world. In 1966, Harvie gave this collection of more than two hundred thousand cultural artifacts to the Government of Alberta, along with five million dollars in grants. The government matched this grant, and created the Glenbow-Alberta Institute, which later became the Glenbow Museum. Thanks to Harvie’s collection, much of the culture and history of western Canada was protected. “To neglect history is one of the shortcomings of civilization,” said Harvie.
Other areas of Eric Harvie’s philanthropic focus included the arts, scientific research, parks and gardens. He also took a leadership role in the creation of Heritage Park, the opening of the Calgary Zoo, and the funding of the Banff School of Fine Arts. In 1967, his accomplishments were recognized when he received the Order of Canada. His legacy lives on through the creation of the Devonian Foundation, which has supported numerous projects throughout the years related to nature conservation and the preservation of history in Calgary and across Alberta.
References & Links
Building a Province: 60 Alberta Lives – Brian Brennan
A Gentleman from a Fading Age – Eric Lafferty Harvie
What’s in a Name… Calgary? – Donna Mar Humber
Eric Harvie School (CBE)