Richard “Dick” Oliphant is referred to by many people as the “father” of the Cal State San Bernardino, Palm Desert Campus because of his instrumental role in establishing the campus in the Coachella Valley.

Oliphant was a strong business leader, developer, former mayor and city councilperson of the city of Indian Wells who approached the California State University in the late 1980s about creating a permanent CSU campus 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 capital campaign co-chair Betty Barker took on the challenge and raised more than $30 million to build what the CSUSB Palm Desert Campus is today.

Oliphant recently published a book titled, “Building California’s Coachella Valley: The Life and Times of Richard R. Oliphant,” to reflect on his many past endeavors and accomplishments.

To celebrate the release of the book, the CSUSB Palm Desert Campus will host a special book signing event on Wednesday, Nov. 8, from 5-7 p.m. in the campus’ Richard and Janice Oliphant Auditorium.

Members of the community interested in attending the book signing must RSVP to by Nov. 1 to receive parking information.

The book is available for purchase on

Oliphant says the book is, “truly the life and times of my existence.”

“It starts with my humble beginnings on a farm in Iowa, progresses through my youth and into early adulthood and takes the reader through the meeting of my wife, Jan, and our journey through life,” he said.

The book goes on to highlight Oliphant’s business endeavors, his moves to various cities and how he wound up living in the Coachella Valley.

Once in the Coachella Valley, Oliphant founded, or helped found, many organizations, including the Cove Community Public Service Commission, the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership and the Indian Wells Fire Department (where he was the city’s first fire chief.)

So why did Oliphant decide to write a book after all these years?

As the years have gone by, I have discussed events that I have been involved with to others and their response was always, ‘You should write a book.’ I was always too busy doing other things, so the book never got written. Along came COVID and I had nothing to do for a couple of years, so I decided to use the time to write the book. I sat down at the computer and wrote the book mostly from memory,” he said.

Oliphant said that writing a biography brings back many memories.

“I wrote this book in stages. I needed to feel memories so I could sit down and put them to paper. I would wake up in the middle of the night with the remembrance of some activity I was involved in and would make notes. It took me a full two years to complete the book. I never thought of being an author, even though I was constantly challenged to do it. I was surprised how good my memory was, even dating back to my childhood. Many things have remained vivid to me, and I feel blessed to still have all my faculties,” he said.

About PDC: The CSUSB Palm Desert Campus offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees, a doctorate in educational leadership, teaching credentials and certificates. Serving more than 2,200 students, it is the Coachella Valley’s four-year public university and plays a vital role in educating and training the region’s growing population.

For more information about the CSUSB Palm Desert Campus, contact Mike Singer in the Office of Strategic Communication at or (760) 341-2883, ext. 78107, or visit the PDC website at