Richard R. OliphantRichard R. Oliphant

Community Leader, Businessman, Elected Official

California State University, San Bernardino

Richard Oliphant is a strong business leader, developer, former mayor and city councilman of the City of Indian Wells who has profoundly influenced the development of educational opportunities in the desert communities.

A native of Iowa, Mr. Oliphant came to the Coachella Valley to manage a retirement community in Palm Desert in 1962. His community spirit and dedication won him many friends and admirers, leading to his election as mayor of the City of Indian Wells. During his term, he saved the city from near-bankruptcy by initiating the development of a number of hotels and resorts in the 1980s, as well as the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in this decade. Tax revenues generated by these facilities helped secure the city's financial recovery; its prosperity continues to this day.

Mr. Oliphant was a leader who approached the California State University in the late 1980s about creating a permanent campus of the university in Palm Desert. He helped create an agreement with the CSU to support the campus with programs if it could be built without state funds. He and co-chair Betty Barker took on the challenge and raised more than $30 million, resulting in three buildings already completed through a unique public-private partnership. A fourth structure, for health sciences, will break ground later this year.

Mr. Oliphant believes his work in support of education far outweighs any of his other accomplishments. "Education is one of the top issues we need to address," he said last year at a ceremony naming an Indian Wells street after him. "It doesn't make sense to build unless you build a complete community."

CSUSB President Albert K. Karnig said he thought Mr. Oliphant was especially deserving of the award. "Without Dick's initial vision and later energy and support, we could never have built the Palm Desert Campus," he said. "Dick has been the campus patron."

In recognition of his outstanding service to the community and his support of higher education in the Coachella Valley, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, San Bernardino are proud to confer upon Richard Oliphant the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.