INDIO — The Richard R. Oliphant Elementary School was dedicated on Sept. 27, 2018 at an evening ceremony attended by its namesake Richard Oliphant and more than 250 of his closest friends.
The ceremony took place on a warm evening in front of the school. Despite offers to take advantage of an air-conditioned waiting area, both Dick and his wife, Jan, opted to mingle among friends as guests began arriving early to catch a moment with the couple known for their support of education throughout the Coachella Valley.
The Desert Ridge Academy Mariachi Band set the celebratory tone for the evening. At 6:30, as the sun was in its final descent, Boy Scouts from Troops 50 and 1701 presented the colors followed by a welcome to guests from Superintendent Scott Bailey. Scott noted that this was an historic event as the naming of a school happens once and it is very rare that the namesake is present at the dedication.
The superintendent thanked the guests for being there and introduced the many dignitaries in the audience including elected officials from cities throughout the valley. County, state, and federal elected officials were there or had sent a representative with plaques and certificates for Dick and the school. Superintendent Bailey commented, “We dedicate this school to a man who has dedicated his life to the betterment of the community.”.
Speeches continued from Indio Mayor Michael Wilson, DSUSD School Board President Gary Tomak, board member Donald Griffith, and Principal Jeff Hisgen. Each made note of the contributions that Dick has made to this community, particularly in the area of education.
Then Richard Oliphant stood before the school named after him and humbly thanked the district for the honor and the guests for sharing the moment with him. He reminisced about the changes in the community of schools and spoke with pride about his role in facilitating the growth of education throughout the valley.
Before he could return to his seat, following a lengthy standing ovation, Scott returned to the podium accompanied by two elementary school students. One handed Jan a bouquet of white roses prepared by the floral students at Indio High School and one a ceremonial key to the school to Dick. Right behind them came a birthday cake to celebrate Dick’s recent 85th birthday with the crowd enthusiastically joining in the song.
The Richard Oliphant Elementary School groundbreaking was held on May 25, 2017 and the doors opened on August 23, 2018. The investment of $31 million came from Measure KK funds and is the first new school to be built in Desert Sands for a number of years. It joins Shadow Hills High School and Desert Ridge Academy to create the triumvirate of elementary, middle, and high schools serving the north Indio community.
Dick Oliphant is a long-time supporter of education in the Coachella Valley and a primary force behind the construction of the Palm Desert campus of Cal State San Bernardino. His efforts have ensured the valley students can receive the best education possible from pre-school through doctorate level programs. A native of Iowa, Dick relocated to the valley in 1962 and has been instrumental in several community-changing development projects including the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens. He serves on many local boards and committees and continues to improve this community for citizens of all ages.
Principal Jeff Hisgen spoke on behalf of the 40 staff members and 571 students when he reminded by Dick and Jan Oliphant that they were always welcome at the school to read a book, to kick a soccer ball, or to just say hello.