Herbert Weldon Kirby

Sept. 23, 2013

Herbert Weldon Kirby (BS Chem Egr ’56) of Longwood, Fla., died unexpectedly in Denville on June 2, 2013. He was 79.

The eldest child of the late Mary (Jakovich) and Victor Kirby, he was born Nov. 21, 1933, in Birmingham, Mich. 

A graduate of Baldwin High School in Birmingham, Kirby received a degree in chemical engineering from Michigan State University 1956, where he met his wife, Joan (Heflin) Kirby. 

A Tau Beta Pi honors recipient, in 2004 Kirby was honored with the MSU Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Red Cedar Circle Award, given to chemical engineering alumni for their distinguished service to the profession and outstanding commitment to the community. 

Kirby worked in various engineering and management positions at Continental Oil Company until 1972. He became executive assistant to the president at Allied Corporation in 1973, and vice president and general manager of the Fertilizer Division in 1982. 

He led a group of fellow Allied employees in the successful buyout of a major division of the corporation; under his leadership as president and CEO, and following several mergers and acquisitions in the early 90s, Kirby’s spin-off company, Arcadian Corporation, became a cornerstone unit of the largest fertilizer company in the Western hemisphere.

He retired in 1990 as CEO, but continued to serve on the board of directors through 1997, when the company was merged into the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan. He also advised Czechoslovakia on privatization of former state-owned companies.

Kirby was a member of the National Freight Traffic Association, the Transportation Association of America, and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and was former director of the Fertilizer Institute. 

Kirby lived in Mountain Lakes, N.J., for 37 years, where he served on the borough council and the planning and zoning boards. He went on to serve as mayor in 1998 and was honored as Citizen of the Year in 2000. 

He was a member of the board of the Medical Needs Foundation, the Lakeland Hills YMCA, the N.J. Center for Hospice, and MSU Engineering Alumni Association. He was also a member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, where he served on the vestry and finance committees. 

Herb and Joan were major benefactors to many deserving and charitable organizations, including Children's Hospice International, and the MSU College of Engineering and the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.

Herb enjoyed spending time with his family and grandchildren; he and Joan served as foster parents to 17 children. He was a world traveler, visiting more than 100 countries. He enjoyed photography, computers, and restoring his '68 Mustang convertible. Herb was an avid golfer and gardener. 

He is survived by his children—Mark Weldon Kirby and his wife of 31 years, Chrys-Ann; Caryn Leah Kirby and fiancé; Scott Kennedy and his son, Ryan; and Lauren Kirby-Van Riper and her husband of 14 years, John. Also surviving are his younger brother, John Steven Kirby; his wife, Beverly; and two sisters-in-law—Patricia Smith and Sondra Witz. Herb is also survived by several grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He was predeceased by his wife of 50 years, Joan, and daughter, Kyle.