Many Cornell students dream of leading a Fortune 500 company. For Robert Toll ’63, this dream has become a reality.
As chair and chief executive officer of Toll Brothers Inc., the top builder of luxury homes in the United States, Toll has led the company to great success while giving back to the community at the same time. Because of his achievements in entrepreneurship and dedication to the community, Toll was awarded the 2005 Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year.
Following a luncheon honoring him yesterday, Toll attended a question and answer session open to students in which he shared his personal opinions about the business and ways that students can succeed.
Although Toll Brothers Inc. has made over $5 billion in revenue and is ranked 36th among all companies in 10-year earnings per share growth, Toll did not always plan on entering the real estate business. In fact, after graduating from Cornell he attended the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
However, Toll soon learned that law was not his passion and left the profession. He encourages all students to do what they enjoy.
“My advice I would give is that it’s a wise man who knows what he doesn’t know,” Toll said. “If you don’t like what you are doing, then get out. If you look at the clock and it’s running slow, then get out.”
Courtney Huff ’09 acknowledged this piece of advice.
“He didn’t want to go back to law,” she said. “I found it interesting that he went to school for it and changed his life plan and was successful. I think it’s important to do what you like and what you’ll be successful at.”
In addition, Toll advised students on how to enter the real estate business. He stressed that prospective employees may come from various backgrounds but education was still an important factor.
“We look primarily for bright people,” Toll said. “We look for brain power on the basis of education.”
Besides hiring a significant number of Cornell graduates, Toll has showed dedication to the University by speaking at numerous seminars. Executive director of the Entrepreneurship and Personal Enterprise Program, John P. Jaquette Jr. recognized Toll’s commitment to the school. “He is clearly committed,” Jaquette said. “Somebody said what was his first home and he said ‘Cornell.'”
Beyond Cornell, Toll has worked with sponsoring 58 third graders in a program called “Say Yes to Education.” The program guarantees a college education to the students and provides counseling.
Furthermore, Toll is a fundraiser for the American Red Cross and the American Cancer Society. These factors were also important in the decision to award Toll the Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year award. One of the main judging criteria is that the candidate commits him or herself to bettering his or her community.
Former director of the Cornell graduate real estate program Bradley Olson met Toll when Toll Brothers Inc. was first beginning and emphasized Toll’s strong values.
“He is a very special man with a dedication to his family, his religion and his community,” Olson said. “I think no one more exemplifies the qualities of character, integrity and leadership as Bob Toll.”
In 1984, Cornell University and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management created the Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year award to honor outstanding Cornellians and entrepreneurs who have added life and vigor to American business and who provide students with successful role models. The award is given during the annual University-wide Entrepreneurship and Personal Enterprise (EPE) Celebration each Fall.
Archived article by Blair Robin
Sun Staff Writer