Clovis News

Remembering Doc

Floyd "Doc" Buchanan first superintendent of CUSD
Floyd "Doc" Buchanan first superintendent of CUSD File Photo

News of the passing of Floyd “Doc” Buchanan, Clovis Unified School District’s founding superintendent, cloaked the city in sadness last week.

His death was announced Aug. 12. He was 91.

Administrators who were gathered in start-of-the-school-year meetings that day reminisced about Doc, sharing stories of the man who, in one way or another, inspired them to become part of the Clovis Unified team of educators.

Some recalled being interviewed personally by Dr. Buchanan when they were hired, and being presented with Doc’s Charge — a compilation of his words of wisdom, or Doc-isms. The framed document hangs in nearly every administrator’s office and teacher’s classroom.

Dr. Buchanan served as superintendent from 1960 to 1991, when he was named California superintendent of the year by the Association of California School Administrators. Buchanan Educational Center was named for him, and a statue depicting him stands in front of Buchanan High School.

But beyond the accolades and recognition is an army of educators who remember him and his legacy: every child matters. Below are submissions from Clovis Unified employees, past and present:

Community figure

Doc is part of this community in a way that a tree is part of the earth. His charge, personality, and smile are far reaching with his strong roots and beautiful stretch into the sky. These roots have taught so many of us to fly and feel safe doing so.

Doc is part of us. Each one of us.

There wasn’t a student he didn’t remember, which I will tell you as an educator, is a tough accomplishment, but he did it. He knew the students of CUSD as if we were all part of his family.

He challenged us and taught us that competition will make us stronger, getting involved in school will make us better, and having pride in our school and in our community was something to strive for.

I remember seeing Doc as I grew up in the Clovis system and he was a rock star. Truly. There wasn’t a student who didn’t know who Doc Buchanan was. After I finished college and came back to teach in Clovis Unified I always felt the same way. He was still a rock star and he still knew each one of us.

I received a Crystal Award from CUSD a few years ago. It was a surprise to me. My administration set up the reveal in an office on campus. Not only were my parents there, which made my heart sing, but lo and behold, so was Doc Buchanan, the rock star. After all these years he remembered me and my family. I will never forget that day.

I will never forget Doc Buchanan and his roots that gave me wings to fly. His reach is now to the heavens, but he will always be a part of each of us, part of this community, and part of all CUSD students to come.

— Heather Karsevar, 504 Coordinator, dance teacher, and drama assistant, Clovis East High School

Wisdom’s teacher

Over the last few years I have had the fortunate opportunity of spending some time with Doc. We would meet and go out to the Blossom Trail Café in Sanger for a long lunch. I would always take a notebook and write down his words of advice and teachings. Here are a few things he shared that I use daily:

Decision Making: Always listen to your people before you make a decision. As a leader, you make the decision. Ask your staff for their best efforts and let them know that you need their support. But, also ask them to trust you and ensure them that you will evaluate the decision in the future and make adjustments.

After you make the decision, get on your knees and ask your staff, “How can I help you get this done?”

Warriors Prayer: Send me an enemy today. But God, don’t send me anyone you and I can’t handle!

I was also fortunate enough to have his wife, Molly, as my fourth grade teacher at Viking Elementary. In our fourth grade class picture, I am standing right next to Molly. He would always say “You know why Molly kept you right next to her, right? That’s where she always put the rowdy kid!” He asked me several times to see the old photo and would always comment about how much he missed Molly and loved her. Very sweet. I will miss him...

— Darin Tockey, Assistant Superintendent, Clovis North Area

Inspiring leader

I had just started working at Reyburn. It was my second week on the job. I had heard many stories about Doc but never knew the man. He was visiting our campus since it was the newest campus in our district. I had just left my office to walk to another office, when he stopped me, held out his hand and said, “I don’t believe I’ve ever met you, young lady. What is your name?”

I introduced myself and we proceeded to have a short conversation. I explained that I was a bit nervous with all my new responsibilities.

His response was, “Well, you know, we only hire the best at Clovis so you don’t have anything to worry about! You have already succeeded!”

I walked away feeling as if I have just met the President of the United States!

— Cynthia Woods, Administrative Assistant, Reagan Educational Center

Father figure

Doc was like a grandfather and Santa Claus all in one. I looked up to him in awe. He always remembered me and gave the best hugs, like my grandfather. As a kid, I remember Doc showing up to our home games at Dry Creek. I don’t know how he managed to make it to all of our events, but he did. I didn’t always have anyone there to watch me, but I had Doc, and he made me feel like he was there just for me, cheering me on.

As I got older and went on to Kastner and Clovis West, Doc continued to support us at events. All Clovis Week was awesome! Back when we only had two high schools. We would have events all week long with the Clovis High versus Clovis West football game at the end of the week. Some years Doc would land via helicopter (which he occasionally did at Dry Creek also) in the center of Lamonica Stadium. It was the highlight of the week!

This is the house that Doc built and I can’t imagine working anywhere else or sending my kids anywhere else.

Carrie Carter, Principal, Freedom Elementary School

I could sit and listen to stories for hours! It didn’t matter whether I was a little Dry Creek Blue Devil or a teacher at Buchanan High School, he remembered me. He made me feel loved and important.

Everything Doc has established in our district, our core values and beliefs, I have to ensure we don’t lose them. I have to for Doc. He has laid the foundation for a high performing school district where we believe in high standards and making every decision based on what’s best for kids. We believe it’s the people we hire, not the programs, that make us successful. This is the house that Doc built and I can’t imagine working anywhere else or sending my kids anywhere else.

— Carrie Carter, Principal, Freedom Elementary School

Authentic leader

I am one of the many who attended Clovis Unified in the 1970’s and ’80s and came back to work here in the ’90s. This has always been home. And that is because of Dr. Buchanan. There are so many special, amazing qualities about Doc. He was an icon. A legend. A rock star. A BRAND.

But, he was so much more than that. So much bigger. What made him truly special was that he absolutely cared, deeply cared, about each and every one of us. Whether we were his students, or employees, or students who later became employees, he knew us. Not just our faces, either. He knew our NAMES. He made us feel important and capable. He made us feel like we mattered.

I remember vividly, as a student at Jefferson Elementary, Doc was often on campus — talking to kids and teachers, cheering us on at games and assemblies, bending down to pick up a piece of errant trash, fixing (or calling someone to fix) a broken water fountain. He was ALWAYS around. And we loved him. Worshipped him. Because we knew he loved us. And not just the pretty kids or the smart kids or the fast kids. He loved every single one of us. To him, we were ALL special and talented and beautiful. We were ALL going to change the world!

I think what I will remember most about Doc is that, even though he became larger than life, he was ALWAYS a teacher. I had some cherished opportunities to spend time with him in the last few years, and he never left me without a word of advice, a cautionary tale, or a life lesson. And … he still knew my name.

Doc walked the walk and talked the talk, and he is the reason why I (and so many others like me) chose education as my life’s work and passion. He created significance in thousands upon thousands of people. THAT is his brand. His legacy. It is every single one of us who were privileged enough to walk the halls of this sacred place he built, and every single student who walks those halls now.

— Wendy J. Karsevar, Clovis Unified School District Section 504 Learning Director, Special Ed Dept.

Personal touch

Doc had a way of making every child who crossed his path feel special. Whenever a student was recognized or featured in The Fresno Bee or The Clovis Independent, Doc would cut out the article and send out a handwritten congratulations and thanks to the student.

— Celia Willis, Clovis West Class of 1988, Sr. Guidance Instructional Specialist, Lincoln Elementary

Every child mattered to Doc

I carry Doc’s vision and his core values with me every day. ‘A Fair Break for Every Kid. It’s People, Not Programs, and Be the Best You Can Be in Mind, Body, and Spirit!’

Jessica Mele, Principal, Garfield Elementary School on the Buchanan Educational Complex

In 1965 when I was in the sixth grade at Temperance-Kutner School, Dr. Buchanan came to visit. We were outside at recess. My girlfriends and I went out to a field to play softball. We brought our own equipment from home because only the boys could play with the school’s athletic equipment on the field with a portable backstop. Doc asked us why we were playing in the sticker patches? We explained that the boys always took the field and the basketball courts. He gazed at all of us and said, “I will take care of this. I promise you young ladies that you will have a field, blacktop, and a basketball court by the start of school next year.”

We all ran off and wondered who this tall gentleman with the booming voice was and did not really expect anything because, after all, we were just girls.

In September when we came back to school and walked out to the playground, my friends and I saw beautiful basketball and volleyball courts with a large metal cart filled with balls and equipment. We were so excited as our principal Mr. Lloyd Harline showed us the new softball diamond. Mr. Harline told us that Dr. Buchanan had this done for us because girls had the right to have healthy minds and bodies. We girls were very grateful.

When I reflect upon Doc’s miracle for us, I think about the genius of that man. He was an early father of Title 9, A Man for all Seasons, my hero, and a visionary leader. I am so very proud to be a principal on the Buchanan Ed Complex at Garfield Elementary. I carry Doc’s vision and his core values with me every day. “A Fair Break for Every Kid. It’s People, Not Programs, and Be the Best You Can Be in Mind, Body, and Spirit!

— Jessica Mele, Principal, Garfield Elementary School on the Buchanan Educational Complex

A real go-getter

My name is Nichole Gambrell, I am the Office Manager at Fugman Elementary and my husband James is the Athletic Director at Buchanan High School.

This is a photo of our son Carter Gambrell with Doc Buchanan. He was the catcher for the Buchanan Bears for the years 2012-14. Carter’s junior year, 2013, Doctor Buchanan was the special guest to “throw out the first pitch” at the Buchanan Elementary Feeder School Night.

Doc took the mound (with no warmup pitches by the way) and threw the first pitch. It landed just shy of Home Plate and a little to the left. Carter quickly jumped up and recovered the pitch to make it look better than it was.

When Carter ran the ball back out to Doc to thank him for coming... Doc looked straight at him and said “One More!” Without hesitating, Carter gave him the ball and ran back to his position. Doc then threw a second pitch. This one, a little better. Carter again, ran the ball out to Doc to thank him and Doc looked at him again... “One More?” He was clearly bothered that they weren’t perfect.

Carter looked at his coach, Tom Donald, for guidance and Coach Donald said they needed to get the game started. Doc understood and firmly said “Thank you Carter, go get ’em tonight!” as they shook hands, my son realized how lucky he was to have that moment with Doc and says he will never forget hearing him say those words... “Go get ’em tonight!”

Doc truly represented and lived the competitive words he spoke about always, and to have this photo to remember it is a great blessing! We will miss him.

— Nichole Gambrell, Office manager, Fugman Elementary

Accomplished athlete

In the fall of 1962, while a junior at Clovis High, I was sitting in the football field stands with about 30 other members of the cross country team. It was a Thursday and the varsity football team was engaged in no-pad, non-contact drills below us, preparing for the following night’s game.

Our coach was droning about something and most of us were paying little attention. At the north end of the field the team’s place kicker was practicing by himself, kicking line drives and knuckle balls off a tee.

At some point two men in suits walked slowly onto the field. They watched practice for a moment, then the one in the blue suit walked over to the place kicker. He talked for awhile, gestured with is hands and legs, occasionally pointing toward the goalposts. Our collective thoughts were something like “who is that guy and where does he get off coming out here and acting like a coach?”

He put the football on the tee, stepped back, gestured a couple of more times, then took a hop-step to the ball in his street shoes, and drilled it cleanly through the goalposts 35 yards away.

That was the first time I ever saw, in the flesh, Doc Buchanan.

— Tom Wright, Lifelong Clovis resident; has served as Clovis Unified’s public information officer

Battle-ready

During my tenure as the girls volleyball coach at Buchanan, I was lucky to have Doc stop by for some of our pregame meetings. Most of the time unexpectedly! His messages were both inspiring and humorous. They always concluded with reminders of our preparation, pride, determination and always “Sic ‘em.”

— Marian Battles, Retired teacher, Buchanan High School

Difference-maker

About 36 years ago, a teacher friend and I were comparing stories of what it was like to be interviewed by Doc as part of the district hiring process. She said she was asked by Doc B, “When it’s all said and done, how would you want to be remembered? What words would you want on your tombstone?”

Of course when I heard the question I instantly thought of my own answer. At that moment, she also shared what Dr. B. said he would pick. I was so surprised when she told me his answer and our two responses matched! It made me feel connected.

The kicker is, his answer, “he made a difference” is the theme of our general session next week... “Making a Difference.”

I was feeling a sense of “coming ‘round full circle, as this will be my last general session, but it makes even more sense now. As they say, “There are no coincidences.” See you next week, Doc!

— Cindy DeAmaral, Kindergarten teacher, Mickey Cox elementary

A real friend

I was deeply saddened to hear of Doc’s passing. Through the years Dr. Buchanan and I had several heart-to-heart discussions about Pinedale Elementary School. We had a common bond in that we both believed that our students could compete and succeed in the real world.

Every time there was going to be some kind of change that affected Pinedale School, Dr. Buchanan would show up at the school and he and I would take a walk and he discuss what was going to happen. Over the years we had so many visits and heart-to-heart talks, that I came to consider him a great personal friend and mentor.

In the past few months, I have seen him at different functions and particularly the celebration for our school’s many achievements this past school year held in our new beautiful multipurpose room. We talked of how so many things had changed, but our conversation was a continuation of one we held over and over through the years. His vision was that every student, no matter where they attended school, would leave the district with the same opportunities, hopes and dreams.

I will miss his greeting me with his kind consideration of the fact of my short stature, and all the warm hugs and wonderful words that he had for me and everyone he met. He would say, “Do you remember..?”, and we would walk down memory lane together. I will miss those times so much.

Rest in peace, my friend.

— Carol Lewis, Library technician, Pinedale Elementary School

Every story a lesson

Everyone knows Mr. Buchanan or in this case Doc. I’ve had a privilege of meeting Doc and having a few words with him, but only few have had the chance to listen to one of his stories and encouraging words. I am a student at Clovis West High school now going to be a senior and witnessed a wonderful moment that was shared between my boyfriend Evan Toland and Doc himself.

Doc is known to go to every game he possibly can. Whether it’s football, volleyball, even basketball he was always there. One night after the game my father David Calderon and the deputy principal at Clovis West Mr. Joe Aiello were helping Doc out to his car when my boyfriend and I were waiting to go home. Doc approached Evan and asked his name. Evan didn’t know Doc at all. Hadn’t heard of him or anything of the sort and thought he was just a sweet old man. Little did he know this sweet old man was a rock star. “Evan, sir,” said Evan to Doc.

Doc noticed the shirt Evan was wearing and asked, “young man, do you play baseball here?”

Evan responded, “Yes, sir, I do.”

“What position do you play, Evan?” said Doc.

Evan said, “I play anywhere, but my favorite position is catcher.”

He began to tell Evan how catching is harder than it seems. Doc said, “I was a catcher myself and let me tell you, the catcher is more important than you think. People think a pitcher is, but they’re not. The catcher is the eyes of the field; he sees all. The centerfielder is mistaken for this as well.”

“Evan nodded and said, “It’s a tough job.”

Doc began to tell a story of his baseball career. “I was an all-Valley champion for my high school all 4 years and also all American for my college. I was catching my senior year and our team was holding tryouts for pitchers since the ones last year had graduated. My coach asked me to pick the new pitcher and do you know why Evan?”

Evan shook his head in disbelief and said,”No, sir, I honestly don’t.”

Doc said,”Because if I ask my pitcher to throw a strike, I need to be able to catch it and they need to throw it. If they couldn’t throw it, I would refuse to catch it. The pitcher I picked helped us win the championship that year.”

At that moment Evan understood what Doc’s story meant, and was grateful to hear it.

Doc looked at Evan, took his hand and said, “Young man, you can do anything you set your mind on. You have to work through a lot to overcome adversities in your life, but in the end you’ll understand perfectly why you had to go through so much to get where you are now. Never stop working hard, Evan. You have a good night.”

Evan replied, “Thank you, sir, and you have a good night, too. Drive safe.”

I stood there in awe as Evan walked towards me. He didn’t realize he had just spoken to a legend.

— Hannah Calderon, senior, Clovis West High School

High expectations

I, like many, am a product of Clovis Unified, having grown up in Clovis schools through the ‘70s and ‘80s. Clovis is home. Dr. Buchanan is a big reason that so many of us truly knew Clovis to be home. He had a vision for this town, for this school district, for the people and kids that belonged to it.

Yes, Doc is a legend, larger than life… but he is much closer, and so much more, to us than that.

Matt Karsevar, science teacher; track & field, cross country, basketball coach, Kastner Intermediate

Doc was inspiring and he challenged everyone to maximize their absolute potential. His “charge” was inspiring and was good for kids, and it was good for the adults that they would become. Not only was the challenge laid before the students and employees of CUSD, but the tools and opportunities were presented as well.

Success breeds success, Doc would say. Doc knew that to be great, you surround yourself with greatness… and in his eyes, everyone had greatness in them. Everyone had the opportunity to be successful. If someone had the desire and worked to improve, he went out of his way to make sure that his “family” had the tools and training to take advantage of those opportunities in whatever arena be it academic, athletic, the arts... It didn’t matter.

Every kid gets a fair shake and then it is up to them to make good on it. Set the expectations high and we will all rise to them.

Doc made everyone, students and employees alike, feel and realize that what they did, but more importantly who they were, was significant and made a difference in the world. He knew us all by name. He truly & deeply cared about us. He always said success and what was important came down to people, not programs being the focus. And his vision brought up and produced many great people that continue to carry on that legacy today throughout the world.

I specifically remember an experience as a student at Clovis High School. I was in off-season training for the Cougar Track and Field Team. One particular afternoon I was out on the field training for the discus throw and Doc had been on campus and came out to the field. He noticed that I was training on my own that day because at the time we did not have an event coach. After we chatted for a few minutes about training and goals for the future he simply said “Keep it up. And don’t worry, you’ll have a coach by spring.”

He and our head coach made good on that statement. They went out and found the best, and come season, we had a coach who was just as passionate and dedicated to our success as we were.

That’s who Doc was. A man of his word, a man who knew the potential in people, a man who taught and inspired us to be successful and hold ourselves accountable to a high standard in every arena of our lives.

Yes, Doc is a legend, larger than life… but he is much closer, and so much more, to us than that. He is already, and will forever be, greatly missed. We are grateful to have had him as our leader and mentor, our motivator, our inspiration, and our friend. We are his legacy.

Thanks Doc, for everything. We will continue to “Sic ’em!”

— Matt Karsevar, Science teacher; track & field, cross country, basketball coach, Kastner Intermediate

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