Visionary – Richard Oliphant

Capital campaign Co-chair California State University, San Bernardino Palm Desert Campus

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Photo by Ethan Kaminsky


""CSUSB is our biggest tool in attracting new businesses to the desert,” Richard Oliphant says. “The university (CSUSB-PDC) is very, very, important in the economic growth of this valley. And the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership, which the university works with, is out there providing the jobs for our students. It’s a nice marriage.”

“The school emphasizes curriculum that meets current and future workforce demands,” he explains. “Nursing was a big program we brought here because we have hospitals that are very short in nursing,” Oliphant says. “The university offers business classes that are important for getting a real job.  We keep monitoring the community and tailoring the classes to fit those needs.”

“The Palm Desert Campus was created for people who couldn’t make the commute out of the area to get the education they needed,” he says. “In 1984, when I started to work on getting a four-year university here, students had to leave the valley to graduate from college. We were losing our ability to get our brightest and best to stay in the Coachella Valley. We started as the second two years of a four-year university education with College of the Desert, our community college, providing the first two years. We now have the full four-year university at our campus, and it’s helped relieve the load at COD.”

The school will continue to grow as well: “The state promised that if the community built this campus, the state would staff and furnish it,” he says. “In 2008, we finished the permanent campus, which will house 3,000 students. The cities jumped in and built the health sciences building, and that’s the only public money we used. The rest was all private money. The entire community feels ownership.”

Oliphant says he’s traveled the world and, unfailingly, “I can’t wait to get back to the Coachella Valley. We have a lifestyle that’s second to none. We have good grade school systems. We have good transportation. This is one of the few places in California that has plenty of water. We have vacant land at reasonable prices. We have CVEP working to attract new businesses and help existing businesses grow. I don’t know where else you find that.”

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