Tag Archives: University of San Francisco

A Sign of the Times

A Sign of the Times

An email popped up on my phone this past midnight. I was just getting ready to shut my eyes. It was from my brother Martel aka Marty. Today is his birthday and also the birthday of my nephew Burl III. I quickly read the heading on the email:

Phelan Hall to Be Renamed to Burl Toler Hall” April 7, 2017
Then I read the first sentence: “A group of students uses  performing arts to promote social justice.” My heart skipped a beat. I thought of Justin, I thought of my Dad. What a posthumous honor to bestow on my Dad and our family.

Read the full story here:



How profound that it was unveiled in a performing arts manner befitting of something Justin, an honorable thespian in his own right and agent for social justice, would probably want to do. Justin loved visual and performing arts and he wanted world peace. Thankful Justin was able to follow all of his passions!!


Papa at Justin’s first performance

Justin and his Papa
Justin’s debut as the Wolf in the Three Piggy Opera 1st Grade

    Justin doing his many things with a passion!

Such a blessing that my Dad was able to see Justin act in his debut play in 1st play as the big bad wolf.

Justin was just like my Dad in so many ways.  He spoke about his Grandpa in 2012.  Justin passed away suddenly from an undiagnosed heart condition while swimming on 2/22/13.  He was 16 years old…

I called my brother, I said: “Marty this is a crazy story!  I am so honored that a building will be renamed on the University of San Francisco (USF) campus from Phelan Hall to Burl Toler Hall. I told Marty I needed to read the rest of the story and I wished him a happy birthday.
As mentioned above, the original name of the building was Phelan Hall. It was named after a man James Phelan who was a US Senator, and San Francisco Mayor from 1897 to 1902.  He also had a disturbing vision of “ being against Japanese and Chinese immigrants”. He also ran his reelection campaign on the slogan “Keep California White.”  The students and USF community thought it was time to make a change and to be more reflective of an inclusive university.

Juxtaposed to his aforementioned man, I am proudly stating that my Dad was an upstanding man of character from start to finish. He came from humble beginnings and took advantage of the educational opportunities provided to him. He put family first. He stood his ground. He was inclusive. He helped and nurtured thousands of kids in the San Francisco Bay Area- that’s why there is a school named after him today. He did things right while not expecting any accolades. He was a lifelong mentor and “ community Dad”. One of his students in Junior High, Bill Yee, came to our house to deliver flowers shortly after my Dad died. He said: “ As a child of Chinese immigrants, he often got into altercations at school and had his lunch money taken and my Dad would give him $0.25 for his lunch money and my Dad never called his parents when he got in trouble.” Bill told me that he became a teacher because of my Dad.  Bill recently retired after over 25 years of service.

Burl Toler in Action at Ben Franklin Jr. High
Burl Toler notes on Giving Children a clear sense of direction 1971

Some of my Dad’s memorable quotes include:
• “Don’t let other people determine how you act.”
• “Do your best and your best will be good enough”
• “Do the right thing”
• “Children learn most of their first character lessons in the home”
• “If you can show me a man who has never made a mistake, I will show you a man who has never made a decision”
• “Treat people the way you want to be treated”

In print, his notable accomplishments have been:

• Member of the USF 1951 Dons Football and a College All-Star in Football
• Undergrad and Graduate degrees from USF
• In 1964 the NFL named him the first “Negro major league official in any professional sport
• First Negro ever named as a Junior High School Principal in San Francisco
• Police Commissioner in SF
• Benjamin Franklin Jr. High School renamed to “ The Burl Toler Campus” in 2006
• Cherished Husband of 40 years
• Father of 6
• Grandfather of 10

Burl Toler Campus Dedication 2006

USF/NFL Hall of Fame Gino Market, Ollie Matson, Bob Sinclair, w/ Burl Toler

There are change agents rising up for various matters all over campuses throughout the world today. The students want their voices heard. They want civil rights and opportunities. Who doesn’t for that matter? Arts are being stripped from curriculums along with after school programs that could change kids lives in the right direction. Elite schools and parents are redirecting students away from taking visual and performing arts classes because “ They just don’t’ give you the GPA boost needed to be competitive”. Public schools don’t even provide vocational or creative opportunities for their students. Budgets do not even cover such things. People don’t talk to each other. People don’t stop to help one another.  People do not listen. It is time to Stop to see what is going on. Look into the eyes of people you encounter.  Listen to what others have to say. Climates are changing.

It’s the sign of the times.

The Dedication will happen on my Dad’s Birthday, May 9, 2017


Twin Peaks San Francisco, Photo Credit: Darrell Carr

My Dad did his best and his best was sure good enough.

Honored to be your daughter Dad. You and Mom taught us all how to do the right thing.

My Dad would be proud. I am sure that Dad, Mom, and Justin are looking down beaming with pride…

What a gift! It’s the Sign of the Times.

Justin wanted world peace and so do I!!!


Created on UC Berkeley’s campus by Justin’s cousin Laureina and friends 2013

Happy Birthday, Martel, Burl III, and Dad.

College Roommate Walt Jourdan at Burl’s 80th bday party

Check out “THE ’51 DONS” from Darshan Kembhavi on Vimeo.




“Happy Birthday
By: Stevie Wonder

You know it doesn’t make much sense
There ought to be a law against
Anyone who takes offense
At a day in your celebration
‘Cause we all know in our minds
That there ought to be a time
That we can set aside
To show just how much we love you
And I’m sure you would agree
It couldn’t fit more perfectly
Than to have a world party on the day you came to be
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday
I just never understood
How a man who died for good
Could not have a day that would
Be set aside for his recognition
Because it should never be
Just because some cannot see
The dream as clear as he
That they should make it become an illusion
And we all know everything
That he stood for time will bring
For in peace our hearts will sing
Thanks to Martin Luther King
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday
Why has there never been a holiday
Where peace is celebrated
All throughout the world
The time is overdue
For people like me and you
Who know the way to truth
Is love and unity to all God’s children
It should never be a great event
And the whole day should be spent
In full remembrance
Of those who lived and died for the oneness of all people
So let us all begin
We know that love can win
Let it out don’t hold it in
Sing it loud as you can
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday
Happy birthday
Happy birthday
Happy birthday…
We know the key to unity all people
Is in the dream that you had so long ago (happy birthday)
That lives in all of the hearts of people (happy birthday)
That believe in unity (happy birthday)
We’ll make the dream become a reality (happy birthday)
I know we will (happy birthday)
Because our hearts tell us so (happy birthday)
Happy birthday
Happy birthday”