One of the desert’s best-known and highly respected developers and philanthropists is being honored with a magnanimous gesture from the Desert Sands Unified School District Board of Education.

The education board voted unanimously to name the newest elementary school in the district after Richard R. Oliphant. The new school, which will house 600 pupils, will be open for the 2018-2019 school year. It will replace Dwight Eisenhower Elementary School.

Richard R. Oliphant

(Photo courtesy of Richard R. Oliphant)

In an email response to Uken Report, Oliphant said, “Needless to say, I was flabbergasted to find out my name had been chosen for the new elementary school being constructed on Gore Street (in) Indio.  When I was the mayor of Indian Wells I worked with Desert Sands to get an elementary school in our city.  It was name after Gerald R. Ford. I sat on stage with him during the dedication ceremony.

“He leaned over to me,” Oliphant recalled, and said, ‘One of the greatest pleasures of having been President was to have schools named after you.’  I have never been President, but I now know the feeling of having a school named after you.”

Oliphant has been president of the Desert Sands School Building Corporation since 1974.  The Corporation has constructed more than half of all schools and the Administration Building during those years, he said.

“Little did I ever think one of those schools would bear my name,” Oliphant said.

Oliphant and his wife Jan have lived in the Coachella Valley for more than 50 years. Their children attended Desert Sands Unified School District. A longtime supporter of education, Oliphant was one of a group of local residents directly responsible for establishing the Palm Desert campus of Cal State San Bernardino. In recognition of this effort and his other work to establish education as a priority in the community, Dick was awarded an honorary doctorate from the school. As part of this commitment to education he established the Desert Sands School Building Corporation and has served as president since its inception. He has served on the Indian Wells City Council, including eight years as mayor, and various other positions within city government and was one of the founders of the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership (CVEP).

Gary Tomak

Gary Tomak

“The children of this valley may not know who Richard Oliphant is but this is a wonderful opportunity to teach them about the history of our community and the men and women who continue to make this a special place to live,” Gary Tomak, incoming DSUSD board president, said.

A naming ceremony for the new school will be held when construction is complete and the school is ready for operation. Jeffrey Hisgen will serve as principal of the new Richard R. Oliphant Elementary School. Hisgen is currently principal DSUSD’s James Carter Elementary.  Principal Theresa Kramer, current principal at Dwight Eisenhower Elementary School, will assume principal duties at James Carter Elementary.

DSUSD is home to almost 29,000 students and 2,700 employees. The district provides education at 34 schools, not including the new Richard R. Oliphant Elementary School; 19 elementary schools, seven middle schools, four traditional high schools, two alternative high schools, one K-12 independent study/home school program, and one early childhood learning centers.