Brendan McDermid / REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo
Up Arrow Bob Toll L’66, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Toll Brothers Inc., at the Reuters Real Estate Summit in New York, June 27, 2007.

A Builder and an Idealist

A Builder and an Idealist
Bob Toll L’66 Spent His Life Catalyzing Change
By Jay Nachman

he family of four fled their Central American home because of what Patricia Stottlemyer L’17 called “harrowing circumstances” that threatened their lives.

As a Toll Public Interest Scholar working in the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Transnational Legal Clinic, Stottlemyer sought to win asylum for the refugees.

“I started to see the practice of law and the practice of working with clients as a more holistic and complex experience,” Stottlemyer said. “Working with this family and seeing that they were not just folks who were trying to win their legal cases and get protection, [I saw] they were [also] parents trying to find their footing in a new place, students trying to do well in school and get access to scholarship resources or trying to make money to support their family and working a side job, and trying to make sure that they were doing it properly and had access to proper employment documents.”

Brendan McDermid / REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo
Up Arrow Bob Toll L’66, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Toll Brothers Inc., at the Reuters Real Estate Summit in New York, June 27, 2007.
When the assignment ended after Stottlemyer’s 2L year, she dove into pro bono work at the Law School’s International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). There, she helped a man fleeing his country, fearing for his life because of persecution based on his sexual orientation.

Her human rights work continued after graduation, when she made repeated trips to Guantanamo Bay as a nongovernmental observer of the military commissions as a staff attorney for Human Rights First. Then she litigated class action lawsuits against the federal government on behalf of asylum seekers, defeating policies that blocked access to asylum. That advocacy continues to this day in Washington, D.C., where Stottlemyer is the Senior Domestic Policy Adviser at Oxfam America, a global organization that fights inequality to end poverty and injustice.

She credits it all to the financial support she received as a Toll Public Interest Scholar.

A unique amalgam of leadership qualities

“A unique amalgam of leadership qualities”
old photo of Toll Brothers in suits
photo courtesy of Toll Brothers
Up Arrow Toll Brothers was founded by Bob Toll L’66 (left) and Bruce Toll in southeastern Pennsylvania in 1967, where their father inspired them to build their first two homes.
Bob Toll headshot
Up Arrow Toll invested in students so they could change the world.
Toll and his wife Jane Toll
Up Arrow Toll and his wife Jane Toll GSE’66 have provided unprecedented resources to the Law School’s public interest program.
Prior to entering law school, Stottlemyer had worked in the nonprofit sector and knew going into public interest law “would be financially tough, but doing public interest work was my entire motivation for becoming a lawyer,” she said. “I would not have been able to attend Penn without that scholarship. That scholarship got me in the door at Penn and then all of a sudden I had this world of incredible resources available to me that without that funding I would never have had. Every experience I’ve had in my legal career set me up to use my legal education to make an impact.”

She has positively affected countless lives thanks to the generosity of Robert “Bob” Toll L’66 and his wife, Jane Toll GSE’66. Bob Toll passed away in October 2022.

Paving the Way for Public Interest Careers

Through the Robert and Jane Toll Foundation, the Tolls have provided unprecedented support for the Law School’s global public interest community. The Tolls’ generosity has built access to public interest careers by expanding loan forgiveness, broadening pro bono programs, increasing summer fellowships, and bolstering scholarship funding.

The Tolls have long celebrated Penn Carey Law’s tradition and commitment to integrating public service into its legal education since its first formal public interest program was established in 1989. The Toll’s visionary philanthropy resulted in a significant expansion of the public interest program at the Law School. In 2006, the Law School’s cornerstone of public interest programming was renamed the Toll Public Interest Center (TPIC) in recognition of a $10 million gift from the Tolls that significantly expanded the vast array of pro bono and public service opportunities focusing on impactful service and professional skills development; TPIC has become an exceptional hub for public service at Penn.

The couple increased their support in 2011, generously providing $2.5 million to expand the loan forgiveness program for Penn Carey Law graduates who commit to careers in public service and to increase both pro bono programs and summer funding for students pursuing public interest careers. In 2015, they dedicated another $2.5 million gift to further support funding and resources for the public interest program. In 2018, The Tolls donated an additional $3 million to create and launch the Toll Public Service Corps, while also establishing the Alumni Impact Awards and funding additional financial and career support for alumni through loan forgiveness and the existing Toll Loan Repayment and Assistance Program (TolLRAP).

In 2020, the Robert and Jane Toll Foundation made a groundbreaking $50 million commitment to dramatically expand the Toll Public Interest Scholars and Fellows Program, doubling the number of future public interest graduates through a combination of full- and partial-tuition scholarships. The Toll Foundation’s $50 million gift is the largest gift in history devoted entirely to the training and support of public interest lawyers and is among the 10 largest gifts ever to a law school in the United States.

Emily Sutcliffe, Executive Director of TPIC, which oversees the Scholar and Fellow Programs, noted that “Bob was unwavering in his belief that our students can and do change the world for the better and he wanted to ensure that the cost of a legal education did not present barriers to public interest careers. It is because of Bob and Jane’s astounding generosity that the Toll Public Interest Scholars and Fellows programs were born, and it is the reason they have been able to grow and thrive.”

Ted Ruger, Penn Carey Law Dean and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law, noted, as well, Toll’s overarching interest in supporting Penn Carey Law students. “His energy and the excitement in his eyes and his demeanor when he would talk about [our] students were amazing,” Ruger said last November at the Public Interest Recognition Dinner honoring Toll.

The number of lives the Tolls have changed, and will continue to change, is exponential, like a gentle ripple of good that compounds into thousands and then millions over time.

Alumni Changing the World

Former Toll Scholar Blair Bowie L’17 manages the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign Legal Center’s Restore Your Vote project, which focuses on ending felony disenfranchisement by democratizing access to rights restoration services and working with directly impacted communities to dismantle systemic barriers to the ballot box through advocacy, litigation, and policy change.

Another former Toll Scholar, Kevin Hollinz L’13, is a staff attorney at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle, Washington, specializing in citizenship cases involving complex criminal immigration issues.

In 2016, Sheerine Alemzadeh L’11 co-founded Chicago-based Healing to Action (HTA), which responds to the ongoing demand of survivors to address the root causes of gender-based violence, including economic inequity, racial injustice, ableism, and heteropatriarchy. Since its founding, HTA has collaborated with more than 500 workers to deepen their political education and develop new strategies to end gender-based violence in their communities.

Alemzadeh, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Iran, was a Toll Scholar and cited the scholarship as a main reason she chose Penn Carey Law. Additionally, Alemzadeh enjoyed the benefits of TolLRAP, the loan repayment assistance program.

“Those two things together definitely made it possible for me to do the work I did after I graduated,” she said. “All the financial support was pretty instrumental for me to feel like it was possible to have this career. I don’t think I could have taken the same risks or pursued some of the same interests if I hadn’t had that financial security that I know a lot of young lawyers don’t have access to.”

In addition to the financial support of TPIC, Alemzadeh said the center provided her with an important mentor—Arlene Rivera Finkelstein, former TPIC Executive Director and current Associate Dean for Equity & Justice and Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Officer—and a support network of like-minded students doing public interest work. TPIC also gave Alemzadeh the assistance and motivation to form the pro bono project Students Against Gender Based Exploitation. “It was a great opportunity for me to connect with different organizations that were doing work that interested me,” she said.

“I’ve always been interested in working with communities that don’t have access to a lot of resources and that have less access to justice,” she said. “I’ve basically been working with immigrant women and women of color since I graduated college. It’s just something that’s really close to my heart,” Alemzadeh said.

Marlon D. Amprey L’16 is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, representing West Baltimore, which his family has called home for five generations. “I’m helping fix and heal the communities that fixed and healed my family,” he said, mentioning that his ancestors came to Baltimore to escape the Jim Crow South.

As a delegate, Amprey distributes more than $55,000 a year in scholarships to people in his district and millions in funds to local nonprofits, while helping shape policy for the state’s six million residents. He is especially focused on supporting incarcerated individuals, ensuring they have more opportunities upon release, and on developing more affordable housing in West Baltimore.

He attributes his work as a legislator directly to a conversation he had with Toll at a dinner for Toll Scholarship recipients.

“Our conversation was very clear that he wanted every student to whom he had given scholarship money to, to use that opportunity to not have to take on a whole bunch of debt, to use that opportunity to give back and do something in the public for the good, for the people,” Amprey said.

“He made it clear: ‘Please, please do something good for the people with these degrees you have. That is why I put together this scholarship and this program. Make sure you are doing something good for the public.’ It really sat with me in that moment. I’m sitting at this table because this man gave me the scholarship money, and I have to refocus my heart and vision on making sure I’m giving back.”

Toll’s remarkable success as a businessman allowed him to participate in a broad range of philanthropy.

His Philadelphia Inquirer obituary documented his extraordinary professional achievements, which fueled his broad range of philanthropic endeavors: Toll was named the 2014 Builder of the Year by Builder magazine and a top CEO three times by Institutional Investor magazine; he was on Barron’s list of top CEOs twice; and his company won the 1995 National Housing Quality Award from Professional Builder magazine.

When Toll and his brother Bruce were inducted into the Builder‘s Hall of Fame in 2017, he was cited for his “unique amalgam of leadership qualities—razor sharp focus, a passion for minutia and questions, the thrill of the deal, and a strong measure of humor in the mix.”

“It is because of Bob and Jane’s astounding generosity that the Toll Public Interest Scholars and Fellows programs were born, and it is the reason they have been able to grow and thrive.”
Emily R. Sutcliffe
Executive Director, Toll Public Interest Center
His New York Times obituary wrote of his acclaim in the industry, having been recognized by several professional organizations, and called him “a wide-ranging philanthropist.”

Paying Tribute to Bob Toll

At last November’s recognition dinner, Ruger said Toll’s “generosity not only transformed the Law School but the profession of law itself.”

Ruger noted that Toll’s views had much in common with many of the public interest-minded students his funding supported.

Toll wanted more Penn Carey Law students to enter public interest and government, said Ruger, “and he believed so deeply in you and the exponential impact that it wasn’t just a gift for a given day or given program. We see it in the careers of those who are recent or not-so-recent graduates. I’m so grateful and confident to think about what you will be doing in the years and decades ahead. And that was Bob’s and then Jane’s vision. Investing in the talent and the commitment and the public idealism of our students and then supporting their careers. I could see it in his face,” Ruger said.

Makayla Harrison C’18, L’23, GEd’23 is a Toll Public Interest Scholar. After graduation, she will join the Education Law Center under a two-year Skadden Fellowship. The center’s mission is to ensure access to a quality public education for all children in Pennsylvania.

“Every year there are hundreds of kids in the Philadelphia area, disproportionately those who are Black, low-income, and in foster care who are placed in psychiatric facilities,” said Harrison. “There are students who are not receiving the education that they’re entitled to under the law.”

Harrison was aided in developing her work enforcing education rights by several members of the Penn Carey Law community and the Education Law Center.

“The Toll Scholarship has helped me pursue a career that I am passionate about,” Harrison said, echoing the thoughts of fellow TPIC alumni not only seeking to make the world a better place, but able to, thanks to the vision and generous support of the Tolls