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John S. Toll

John TollJohn S. Toll’s career in higher education has touched six decades, culminating in his presidency of a small liberal arts college that he helped redefine as one of the great small liberal arts colleges in the nation. Under his stewardship for the past eight years, Washington College has grown on several fronts—achieving greater donor support, a larger applicant pool and increased selectivity, more resources for faculty research and teaching innovations, an expanded physical plant, and a quadrupled endowment. Upon the conclusion of his presidency at the end of the 2003-2004 academic year, his legacy will be defined by the Washington Scholars Program, a merit scholarship program that now supports more than half of all students enrolled at the College, a $20 million science facility now under construction, and an array of academic initiatives that includes two new centers that play to the College’s strengths—its history as the first college founded in the new nation and its setting within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Dr. Toll, a Princeton-trained physicist, Chancellor Emeritus at the University of Maryland, and former president of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, came to Washington College in 1995 from the physics department at the University of Maryland, where he had been working with graduate students and faculty on research.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in physics with highest honors from Yale University in 1944 and serving in the Navy during World War II, Dr. Toll completed his Ph.D. in physics at Princeton, where he helped to establish Project Matterhorn, now known as the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. In 1953 he joined the University of Maryland faculty and served for thirteen years as chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

In 1965 Dr. Toll became the first president at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. By the time he left, the school of 1,800 students had been built to one of 17,000 students and, in addition to arts and sciences and engineering, they had added schools of public affairs, medicine, dentistry, nursing, allied health professions, basic health sciences, and social work. For his work there, Dr. Toll was listed among “100 Who Shaped the Century” by Newsday, the principal newspaper of Long Island, New York. The gift club of benefactors there is named for him.

In 1978, the University of Maryland invited Dr. Toll to return as President. At that time, he presided over a system of five campuses. Ten years later, at the request of then-Governor Schaefer, Dr. Toll headed up the merger of Maryland’s two public multi-campus university systems. This led to the founding of the University of Maryland System, with Dr. Toll named as Chancellor. Though he left that post in 1989, Dr. Toll still serves as Chancellor Emeritus. In 2002, the University named its physics building for him.

During his early years at the University of Maryland, Dr. Toll had been involved in the founding of the Universities Research Association (URA), a consortium of 34 member universities with research programs in high energy physics, formed to build and to operate the National Accelerator Laboratory. In 1989 Dr. Toll became president of that group, whose membership has now expanded to 80 universities.

Dr. Toll’s wife, the former Deborah Ann Taintor, had a career in economics and journalism before becoming involved in higher education as the wife of a university president. She still works as a volunteer for organizations in support of journalism and the arts. The Tolls have two grown daughters.

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