Community mourns loss of exceptional educator Charles W. Grande

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Photo RUSD: In 2018, Eisenhower High School Principal, Mr. Frank Camacho, on left, stood proudly with the late Eisenhower High School teacher and coach, Mr. Charles Wesley Grande. The respected long term classroom educator had the EHS quad dedicated in his name in 2011. He was an impeccable dresser, and showed profound respect towards his students. Mr. Camacho, who was also one of Grande’s students said, “Not only Eisenhower High School, but our entire education community in the District lost a very loving child advocate. We will miss him, dearly.”
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On behalf of the Rialto Unified School District Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Avila, it is with considerable sadness that we announce the passing of long-time educator, and Eisenhower High School teaching legend, Mr. Charles Wesley Grande. Mr. Grande passed on November 23, 2020, in Bryan, Texas, at the age of 89. He was considered by thousands of former students and colleagues as one of the most passionate and impactful high school classroom educators/coaches in RUSD history. 

Mr. Grande was born on July 21, 1931, in the city of Riverside. He attended Whittier College and earned his BA in Religion from Boston University, where one of his theology classmates was the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Our father was exceptional. He showed up every day, dedicating his life to the service of his students, generation upon generation. He changed people, gave us options we didn’t know we had. We will miss him,” replied his son, Dr. Robert Grande on behalf of the Grande Family. 

Mr. Grande was hired as a classroom history teacher at Eisenhower High School in September of 1964. He retired in January of 2001. In his remarkable education career, he led the Mock Trial team (1993 until 1999) to a championship and expected the most out of his students. If that wasn’t enough commitment to keep Mr. Grande busy, he also served as the Academic Decathlon coach and volunteered as a spiritual coach for the football and basketball programs during the school’s championship seasons. Mr. Grande was also a part-time professor at Crafton Hills College.

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“My life would have turned out very differently were it not for Mr. Grande,” reflected Dr. Preston Jones, EHS alum and professor at John Brown University, Arkansas. “Three decades after being in his classes, and more than two decades into my own teaching career, he remains my model of thoughtfulness, commitment, perseverance, critical thinking, and independence. He had plenty of brain, but he taught more from the soul. What an incredible gift it was to have been his student. Mr. Grande will always remain my hero, and I will always credit him for saving my life.” You may hear more from Professor Preston in a recent YouTube interview

Mr. Grande was a master at his trade, earning the respect of his students and peers. He also experienced considerable recognition during three decades in RUSD education. He earned the State of California finalist award for “Teacher of the Year,” the “Golden Apple Award,” the RUSD “Education Key to the District” (presented to him by then Board of Education President Mr. Joseph W. Martinez), and on September 21, 2016, during the District’s 125 quasquicentennial, Mr. Grande was only one of five recipients to earn the “Living Legend Award.”

NFL Hall of Fame athlete and Eisenhower HS alum, Mr. Ronnie Lott, paid tribute to one of his favorite teachers. In 2013, Mr. Lott stated, “Hall of Fame players need Hall of Fame parents, which I had, and Hall of Fame teachers, such as Mr. Grande. He was one of the most supportive teachers I had.” 

Mr. Grande is survived by his son, Dr. Robert Grande, daughter, Lise, who is the CEO of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and formerly served as a senior American UN official who spent most of her career in conflict zones, his daughter-in-law, Patricia Pietrantonio, and only grandson, Matias Grande.

In 2018, Eisenhower High School Principal Mr. Frank Camacho (pictured with Mr. Grande above) stood proudly with the late Eisenhower High School teacher and coach. In 2011, the EHS quad was renamed in honor of Mr. Grande. Mr. Camacho, who was also one of Grande’s students, said, “Not only here at Eisenhower High School, but our entire education community lost a very compassionate advocate for children. Mr. Grande is not only an integral part of this school’s history but will leave a lasting impact on generations to come. I am proud to have known him as a student and later in my life as a dear friend.” 

According to Syeda Jafri, RUSD spokesperson there will be a moment of silence at the December 16, 2020, RUSD Board of Education School Meeting, which will adjourn in honor of the late educator. Additionally, a public memorial at Eisenhower High School will be planned after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

“The passing of Mr. Grande has brought tributes coming in from all over our nation,” replied Jafri, who was also a former student of the iconic educator. “It is quite remarkable. He made every student that he taught feel as if they were the most important person in his life, and undoubtedly, they really were. He respected his profession. He was a deeply religious, intense and introverted being. He never hesitated to say that his shining stars were his two accomplished children and his only grandson, whose picture he kept in his wallet. Mr. Grande simply brought out the best in humanity; that’s what remains and that is what is remembered. May his soul rest in peace.”

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