Cottonwood Heights, Utah
Dr. Elton Neal Roberts, former Superintendent of San Bernardino Unified School District, died of natural causes, surrounded by his wife and three daughters, in Salt Lake City, Utah on October 17, 2020.
Neal, as he was commonly called, was born June 7, 1928, in Annabella, Utah, a farming community near Richfield, to Elton Clynn and Clara Hilda Savage Roberts. His elementary education started in a two-room school house across the street from his home. When he and other more rural students went to junior and senior high, they were bussed daily to Monroe, a larger community eight miles away. Neal always excelled in anything athletic, especially basketball and track. He graduated from high school with a full athletic scholarship to Snow Junior College in Ephraim, Utah. He was on the basketball team that went to the Western Regional Play-offs in Compton, California his sophomore year. From Snow, Neal went on to Brigham Young University, in Provo. By then he was married to Lorelei O’Halloran and had started a family. He decided to major in Education and earn a teaching credential in elementary education. He also lettered on the track team in pole vaulting. He graduated in 1950 and taught in Richfield for a few years. In 1954, when he heard California was hiring new teachers for more pay, he made a quick decision to move to California with his young family.
San Bernardino was one of the first places he applied for a teaching position. The District had two new elementary schools nearing completion. He was hired as a substitute teacher until these schools were ready to open. His first teaching assignment was in a sixth grade class at Rio Vista Elementary School. He subsequently taught in other elementary schools in the district.
Neal saw the advantage of seeking higher education. He earned a Masters Degree in Education from Claremont College. Thereafter, he was made Principal of Rio Vista Elementary School.
By the mid-1960s, the school district was faced with the prospect of desegregation by federal mandate. Neal was invited to lead an ad hoc committee to desegregate the school district and develop a bussing program that would satisfy the federal court. Because of his own unique background he seemed especially capable in helping solve these issues.
Once again, Neal decided to further his education. He earned his Doctorate of Education from the University of Southern California. In 1982, he was hired as Superintendent of the San Bernardino Unified School District, a position he held until he retired in 1999.
His accomplishments as Superintendent were many. Dr. Roberts was most known as an intuitive leader whose mantra was always "Let’s find a way". His third grade reading initiative was a model magnet school program that attracted national attention and won him an invitation to a symposium at the University of Oxford. He was honored to have a magnet school named after him: E. Neal Roberts Elementary School.
After retiring as Superintendent, Dr. Roberts taught Educational Management at the University of California at San Bernardino for five years, mentoring students seeking administrative positions in schools. He also taught graduate classes at the University of Redlands for a number of years.
When he finally retired from Education, he spent his last days between his home in California, his mountain cabin near Fish Lake, Utah, and his condo in Salt Lake City.
He was a life-long member of good standing in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
His great loves were hunting, fishing and tennis.
He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and colleagues.
He is survived by his wife, Lorelei; three daughters: Jan Kristen, Sue Lynn and Patricia Lee;, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Graveside services will be held at the Annabella Cemetery on Tuesday, October 27, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. Because of the Covid pandemic, masks are required and social distancing will be observed. Because of the expected cool weather, please dress in warm, comfortable clothes. Funeral Directors: Magleby Mortuary, Richfield, Salina and Manti. Online guestbook at www.maglebymortuary.com
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Dr. E. Neal Roberts Scholarship fund. Checks should be made to the San Bernardino Community Scholarship Association with Dr. E. Neal Roberts Scholarship noted on the memo line and sent to: Dr. E. Neal Roberts Scholarship, San Bernardino Community Scholarship Association, P.O. Box 2066, San Bernardino, California, 92406