Floyd “Doc” Buchanan was remembered Thursday in a public ceremony to honor his commitment to Clovis and Fresno schoolchildren.
Dr. Buchanan, who shepherded Clovis Unified School District for 31 years, died in August. He was 91.
The brief event, which attracted hundreds at the high school and educational center named for him, was the public’s first opportunity to celebrate Dr. Buchanan’s life.
“He was that rare person who was respected by students and teachers alike,” said Clovis Unified Superintendent Janet Young. “Why? Because he made us feel important. He made us feel comfortable, cared for and cared about. He built us up.”
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Doc Buchanan is our Walt Disney.
Buchanan was described as an education visionary, setting high standards for teachers and students, and his demand for excellence catapulted Clovis Unified schools to become the top-performing district and a sports powerhouse in the central San Joaquin Valley.
Its success led to a stampede of development in Clovis and northeast Fresno to accommodate families wanting to live within the district’s boundaries. And, it was the location of Clovis schools, city leaders say, that created development patterns. Young said Dr. Buchanan “literally put Clovis on the map.”
“Think about it,” Young said. “How often is it really that an entire region’s trajectory is changed by a single person? I truly believe that the growth of the cities of Clovis and Fresno are because of what Doc built through his vision of providing a private-school education in a public-school setting for generations to come.”
Vinci Ricchiuti, who graduated from Clovis High in 1977, remembers meeting Dr. Buchanan in the fifth grade when she came to a board meeting with her mother. Her husband served on the board, her parents and her children attended Clovis Unified schools, and she said she was proud to be on the cusp of a fourth generation of Clovis Unified students in her family.
“Doc Buchanan is our Walt Disney,” Ricchiuti said. “Walt created a theme park, but Dr. Buchanan created a community, an educational community that’s vibrant, and his legacy continues to live on. He had his own artful design, and it’s continued to touch and shape the lives here today and generations to come.”
Don Shroyer was Dr. Buchanan’s assistant for over 30 years. A week before Dr. Buchanan passed away, Shroyer said, he was still looking at blueprints for the district “making sure everything was in place.”
Young said Buchanan built the district from the ground up and was not only an architect of the district, but a builder of the community’s future.
“Just last winter at Clovis High he told me how they laid every piece of the wooden floors in the gym, and last May he told me about every aspect of the Clovis West Olympic swim complex, how it was built from the depths of the racing pools to the diving pools,” she said.
Music groups from all five of Clovis Unified’s high schools performed Thursday night amongst Dr. Buchanan’s family, friends and all those impacted by his legacy. Photographs, coloring books drawn by students and a video from Dr. Buchanan himself were on display. Students passed out Dr. Buchanan’s favorites: popcorn and root beer floats.
“He was very much a people person, very much a kid person,” Shroyer said. “Every day was a learning experience. He had a vision that was just, a desire to make sure every kid was successful. He would go into the classroom and show the teacher how to teach the kids and have fun. He always had fun.”
Ricchiuti said: “The students are a part of the event. He always had the kids at the center of everything and that’s how this event is.”
The ceremony ended with Dr. Buchanan’s daughter, Randy Hein, herself a recently retired Clovis Unified principal who spoke fondly of her father and thanked the hundreds who came out to remember and honor his legacy.
Staff writer Marc Benjamin contributed to this report. Megan Ginise: 559-441-6614