When Xavier Prep, a new college preparatory high school serving Palm Desert and the Coachella Valley opened its doors last year, the area’s USD alumni could not only take pride, but a large chunk of the credit. At the center of the nine-year effort to transform a wish into a vision — and the vision into a vibrant school community — stands Doeleen (Rizzo) Rover ’87.
In 1997, Catholic education in the valley stopped at the eighth grade. Although their only child was still a toddler, Rover and husband Mike, also Class of ’87, wanted a Catholic high school. They joined a planning group. The group’s vision was a first-class school: rigorous academic curriculum, cutting-edge technology, a strong athletic program, a campus that was beautiful as well as functional, and a commitment to Jesuit ideals of service and social action. The school would serve 1,500 students and would admit any student who was motivated and academically able, regardless of ability to pay. Rover chaired the group, and then became board president, a job she continues to hold.
The price tag on the project was about $27 million for the first phase, with a total of $54 million. The Diocese of San Bernardino encouraged the planners but couldn’t help them pay for it. The Jesuits applauded them, but couldn’t commit priests to staff it.
“We just kept going, and every time we ran into a wall, a door would open up,” Rover says.
The school devised an Ignatian model that incorporated the strengths of the Jesuit tradition, but would be staffed by lay teachers. The Berger Foundation donated a 96-acre parcel for the site. Friends Kim (Purcell) McNulty ’83, and Ulrich McNulty ’86 (J.D.) helped with fundraising. The school’s religious goods and chapel furnishings come from Garson and Sons, run by Paul Garson ’86.
Fifty-one freshmen started classes in the fall of 2006 and moved into classrooms on campus in early 2007. Xavier’s first graduation will take place in the spring of 2010. Xavier’s future is bright, thanks to the work of USD alumni.