Chestertown, MD, June 18, 2003 — Dr. John S. Toll, President of Washington College, announced Monday to the College's Board of Visitors and Governors that at the end of the 2003-2004 academic year he will be prepared to conclude his service as president, a position he has held since January 1995. During his sabbatical year of 2004-2005, Toll plans to continue as an advisor to the institution and to the Board as it installs a new president for the 221-year-old institution.
“As I approach my tenth year at Washington College, the time is appropriate for me to assess the College's future leadership requirements and my own plans and aspirations,” said Toll, who turns 80 this October. “I am enormously proud of what the College has achieved, and I wish to complete my term as President when the College is well positioned to achieve a successful transition to new leadership.”
“John Toll's period of leadership at Washington College will constitute its most successful decade in history,” said Jack S. Griswold, Chair of the Board of Visitors and Governors. Under Toll's leadership, the College has achieved increased donor support and a quadrupling of the College's endowment, expanded academic programs and new academic facilities, a growing applicant pool and increased selectivity, and enhanced rankings in U. S. News & World Report's America's Best Colleges and other independent college guides. Meanwhile, the College has remained deliberately small. With an undergraduate enrollment capped at approximately 1250 students, Toll believes the College can provide an ideal environment for collaborative learning and for fostering a strong sense of community.
“Words cannot adequately express my appreciation and admiration for what Dr. Toll has accomplished for Washington College,” said Griswold. “By any standard, his presidency will be remembered as among the College's most remarkable.”
In accepting Dr. Toll's plans for retirement, the Board voted to award him the title of President Emeritus when he concludes his presidency.
Toll is an internationally respected figure in academic and scientific communities. He has attracted a number of national figures to speak at the campus, among them former President George H. W. Bush and James Watson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning physicist who, with Francis Crick, discovered the double helix structure for DNA.
“Throughout a long and distinguished career as both a scientist and an educator, John Toll has built programs that support the pursuit of knowledge in modern physics and related sciences,” Watson remarked upon learning of Toll's intentions to step down. “No educator has had more impact in fostering cooperation in scientific research than John Toll. From university research labs to undergraduate classrooms, John Toll has made significant contributions to the success of science education in America.”
Toll will also be remembered for returning the College's benefactor and first trustee, George Washington, to the forefront of the College's identity, and emphasizing the early institution's role in forging an educated citizenry for what was then a new nation. One of Toll's first initiatives was the Washington Scholars program, which awards $40,000 scholarships to National Honor Society and Cum Laude Society high school students who exemplify the qualities of leadership, scholarship, character and service. Today, more than half of all students enrolled at the College are Washington Scholars.
David L. Warren, President of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, commented on Toll's impact at Washington College: “John Toll is a national treasure in American higher education. With an illustrious career already established, and at a point when most people would be comfortable resting on their accomplishments, John instead chose to take on the challenge of leading Washington College into the new century. Since 1995, he has done that with style, substance, and a degree of success that has been noted all across higher education. Today, thanks to John's efforts, Washington College stands as one of the rising stars of private higher education. Its new-found national stature over the past eight years is in large measure a reflection of the stature of its president.”
A Princeton-trained physicist, Chancellor Emeritus and professor of physics at the University of Maryland, and a former president of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Toll's career in higher education has spanned six decades. His first appointment as a college president came in 1965 when he became the first president at the 1,800-student State University of New York at Stony Brook. By the time he left, the school had grown to 17,000 students with specialized schools for public affairs, medicine, dentistry, nursing, allied health professions, basic health sciences and social work, and had become the leading centers of research in the State University of New York. In recognition of his accomplishments at Stony Brook, Newsday counted Toll among the top 100 individuals who shaped the twentieth century. The university's gift club for benefactors is named for him.
In 1978, the University of Maryland invited Toll to return, this time as president to preside over a system of five campuses. Ten years later, at the request of then-Governor Schaefer, Toll headed up the merger of Maryland's two public multi-campus university systems and the founding of the University of Maryland System, with Toll named as Chancellor. He left that post in 1989 to become president of the Universities Research Association. In 1995, he accepted the position of Acting President of Washington College and later that year accepted the presidency on a permanent basis. While at an age when most people consider retirement, Toll promised the college ten years. By the end of his 2004-2005 sabbatical year, he will have more than fulfilled that commitment.
His leadership has brought considerable progress, financial support and recognition to Washington College, an effect that colleagues call “The Toll Factor.” At the time of his arrival, the College's endowment was under $27 million; at the end of fiscal year 2002 it stood at $104 million. The fundraising campaign he initiated in 1996 achieved its initial goal of $72 million 18 months ahead of schedule, and is targeted to top $100 million by the end of this year. The campaign has funded the Washington Scholars program, four new endowed faculty chairs, and the expansion of the College's physical plant, including the addition of two new academic facilities, 11 new student residence halls, and a $20 million science teaching and research complex now under construction.
While finances and infrastructure grew stronger under his guidance, so did academic initiatives, including the addition of five new majors and a certification program in elementary education. Two new academic centers combine traditional academic programming with community engagement and research opportunities for students—the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and the Center for the Environment and Society.
“John Toll's initiatives at Washington College have strengthened its leadership role in preserving the Chesapeake Bay region,” remarked Congressman Wayne Gilchrest, who represents the district encompassing Washington College. “With a renewed focus on environmental studies and its rich historical heritage, Washington College involves students in issues that matter to the people of the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.”