Dr. Richard B. Shelton
Former Superintendent of Schools
A community celebration of life for Dr. Richard B. Shelton, 84, beloved superintendent of schools and beloved husband, father, and grandfather, will be held at 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 25, in the multipurpose room of Isla Vista Elementary School, which he was instrumental in building, at 6875 El Colegio Rd, in Goleta.
Dr. Shelton passed away peacefully surrounded by love ones at Cottage Hospital as he succumbed to a weakened heart May 23.
He was a force of nature. He was widely known for his quick wit, his keen intellect, and his tender heart. He had a strong presence and always commanded a room. He was always funny. He never suffered fools. He was also extremely intuitive and perceptive. He missed nothing. He wasn’t just a boss, but a leader, mentor, confidante, and the greatest of friends. His intellect and wisdom were a guiding force, but underlying it all was his deep, unending empathy. It brought him great joy to help the less fortunate in ways large and small. He was one of a kind.
Many suspected he had an internal calculator, evidenced by his speedy and unfailingly accurate computations; an internal Wikipedia database because of his staggering breadth of knowledge (his kids learned early never to say “Daddy, guess how many…” or “guess how high…”); and an internal GPS system, as he navigated repeated cross county travels to new places without missing a turn, enabling him to tell anyone traveling roads he had driven where the closest restaurant or gas station would be, having never forgotten any along his path. Many of his trips involved tailgating at his beloved Rutgers football games.
An only child, he was born in 1937 in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. to Jack and Anne Shelton, who each owned local retail stores. By age 13 he had been interviewed extensively in local newspapers and radio stations because of his skills on the baseball field, traveling with one of the nation’s first Little League teams all over the East Coast, just missing out on the Little League World Series. He was also a star basketball player.
After high school he dabbled at college, and then joined the Army, where he was stationed at Fort Bliss, in that safe space between the Korean and Vietnam wars, and was tapped to play on the traveling Army basketball team. He returned to marry his first wife, Judy, and they had two children Jay and Amy.
After the Army, college was a breeze. He graduated from Rider College with a B.A. in labor relations, but always loved working with young people as a counselor and coach, so he turned down a lucrative job in industry to instead help the Trenton, N.J. school district fill its dire teacher shortage. He worked as a fifth grade teacher and math specialist for five years, while earning an M.A. at Temple University in elementary administration.
He subsequently worked as an acclaimed elementary principal in Pottstown, P.A., and an assistant to the superintendent of schools in Bound Brook N.J., while completing his doctorate in Educational Administration from Rutgers University in 1976.
He married his wife Wendy in 1973, and they had two children, Jeffrey and Leslie.
After earning his doctorate from Rutgers, he was named assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in a K-12 school district in Waynesboro, P.A. He then became the district’s superintendent of schools for three years, earning numerous distinctions and statewide accolades. But he always wanted to come to California and realized that goal when he was named superintendent of schools in Goleta in 1987, where he was widely respected and admired for his leadership skills and his humanity.
He retired in 2000, and was then recruited to serve in positions as an interim school superintendent in Cold Spring, Buellton, and Los Olivos school districts.
He served on the boards of the South Coast Railroad Museum and Goleta Valley Hospital, among many others.
His remarkable spirit will always live on in those who adored him and survive him: wife Wendy; son Jeffrey and his wife Sonia and daughter Aniyah; daughter Leslie; son Jay; daughter Amy and her husband Dave and their four sons Meyer, Marley, Cassidy, and Dylan.
The community is welcome to attend his memorial celebration of life at 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 25 at Isla Vista Elementary School. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the American Heart Association, the Anti-Defamation League, or the South Coast Railroad Museum.