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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Dueñas

Board Profile: Burl Toler Jr.

Bread & Roses Board Member Burl Toler Jr. brings a great deal of expertise to

our organization. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Burl about what inspires him to volunteer for Bread & Roses. Burl is an Architect/ Project Manager at Contra Costa Community College District and has been on the Bread & Roses Board of Directors since 2021.

Susan Tomayo-Toler and Bread & Roses Board Member, Burl Toler

Q. Tell me a little bit about your background and long connection with the San Francisco Bay Area.

A. Born in San Francisco to wonderful parents Burl Toler Sr. and Melvia Toler, I am the second eldest of six children, three boys (myself, Greg and Marty) and three girls (Valerie, Susan and Jennifer). My Dad called it planned parenthood! We were raised primarily in their home in the Ingleside District of San Francisco. We attended St. Emydius Elementary as well as St. Ignatius College Prep. (for the boys) and Convent of the Sacred Heart and Mercy High School (for the girls). Due to the guidance of my parents, all of my siblings have become successful in their family lives as well as their chosen professions. 

After St. Ignatius, I entered UC Berkeley where I received a degree in Architecture. There, I also played football for the California Golden Bears as Linebacker, earning All-Conference Honors and was selected as Team Captain. Upon graduation, I signed with the San Diego Chargers. I quickly realized that while I felt I could compete on the professional level, my true calling was in architecture and eventually Construction Management. I have been fortunate to work for my entire career here in the San Francisco Bay Area; first at Bechtel as an Architect and later with the City and County of San Francisco at SFO as a Construction Manager working on the three-billion-dollar Airport Expansion Project. My highlighted projects were the North Connector Building and the Aviation Archive Museum. Additionally, I have worked in the Bay Area providing Construction Management services to educational institutions focusing on the modernization of their facilities both on college campuses as well as K thru 12 school buildings.

During my freshman year at UC Berkeley, I was fortunate to meet Susan, a wonderful and amazing woman who would eventually become my wife. Susan and I have been married for 44 years and have five children. Our daughter Christianna is a dancer and actress who is married to her husband Suff. They have two boys, Hendrix and Hayes, and they reside in Brooklyn, New York. Our son Carl Burl III is a Cal Berkeley graduate, Cal Football Coach and a former professional football player who is married to Drea. They have three children, Late, Burl IV and Lana, and live in Walnut Creek. Our son Cameron is an architect and also a graduate of Cal Berkeley who is married to Megan. They have a son Amari and also live in Brooklyn, New York. Our daughter Maurita as another Cal Berkeley graduate with a Master's from the University of San Francisco (USF) in Sports Management who lives in El Sobrante and works in development at Bishop O’Dowd High School. Our other daughter Laureina is also a Cal Berkeley graduate who is an educator with a Master in Education from the University of Arkansas and lives with her husband Devin in El Sobrante. 

Q. How did you learn about Bread & Roses?

A. I learned about Bread & Roses about five years prior to being elected to the Board of Directors in 2021. Michael McElligot, who was on the board back then and now sits on the Circle of Advisors, had invited Susan and me to a couple of events at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley. Since that initial encounter, I have begun to understand and embrace the purpose of Bread & Roses's mission of healing through music, especially to the less fortunate members of our greater Bay Area community. To give to the less fortunate through music is a cause that really resonates well with me. I also know Circle of Advisors member Ronnie Lott and his wife Karen.

Q. You are an important member of the community, earning many awards including the Seaborg Award from UC Berkeley where you played football in college. What inspires you to give back to the community?

A. It really had a lot to do with my parents; both were very service-oriented. My father was an educator who really cared about children, especially those from inner cities. He essentially raised a lot of kids from less fortunate communities in San Francisco. My mom was a member of the Junior League of San Francisco whose mission is to advance women’s leadership for meaningful community impact. Both parents were so charitably conscious and I ultimately felt that if there is enough energy in the day, why not give some of that energy to those who are less fortunate? I think it’s so important to give back to the community and I try to do so as best I can. I am a member of the Board of Regents at St. Ignatius College Prep. I’ve also served as the director on the West County Waste Water District Board. I’ve been on the CYO Board of Trustees, and I am honored to be on the Bread & Roses Board of Directors. 

Q. Who are some of your favorite musical artists?

A. My exposure to music early on was from the radio. I really enjoyed listening to KBLX-FM which is a local jazz station. Then when I was a student at Cal, I was introduced to the Berkeley Jazz Festival in 1979 right after I graduated from Cal Berkeley. The event was a three-day festival at the Greek Theatre with artists such as Al Jarreau and Herbie Hancock. I had a lot of fun at these festivals. Some of my favorites now are Brian Simpson and Miles Davis. I really enjoy smooth jazz. My wife and I often attend

the San Jose Jazz Festival and Monterey Jazz Festival and it’s a really nice time. 

Q. You're also an accomplished architect, designer and project manager, having managed major infrastructure in the Bay Area. Does music play a part in the work that you do?

A. I listen to music all the time. Music is an important part of my life, especially during non-working periods. In the work that I do, there’s a lot of construction noise and machinery. After a long day of work, I look forward to getting in the car and turning on some smooth jazz and bringing myself to a comfortable place.

Q. If you could have dinner with any musician, dead or alive, who would it be? 

A. I would have dinner with Miles Davis because he was such a complex person. Anyone who knows him from his music knows that he also faced challenges. He was a bit of a rebel, but his music was so upbeat and so special. It was so different and a refreshing change to some of the standard music that was out at the time. I would love to sit down with him over a glass of wine. 

Executive Director Dave Perron said this: “Burl’s deep roots and family history in the Bay Area have proven to be a really valuable asset for his participation with Bread & Roses. This coupled with his love for music has added much to our organization.”


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