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Chico State

Fond Farewell: Distinguished Alumnus and Philanthropist Glen Toney

Stars shine above Trinity Hall.
Jason Halley / University Photographer

Distinguished alumnus and longtime University friend Glen Toney (Philosophy, ’66; Honorary Doctorate, ’04) passed away December 20 in Palo Alto. He was 81.

Born on January 4, 1939, in Monroe, Louisiana, he was raised in Oroville and graduated from Oroville High School in 1957. From an early age, Toney expressed an interest in community service, serving on the Student Body Executive Committee, earning his rank as an Eagle Scout, and participating in projects such as the cleanup of the 1955 Feather River flood in Marysville and Yuba City. From 1962–64 he served in the US Army missile division where he attained the rank of private first class.

After graduating from Chico State, he attended San José State University, where he earned a master’s degree in instructional technology and a bachelor of science in mathematics. He received a doctorate in organizational behavior and higher education in 1975 from the University of Southern California and also earned his teaching and administrative credentials. He spent most of his career in Silicon Valley before moving to Chico in 1995.

Toney’s life is characterized by his reputation as an outstanding business executive, prominent community leader, volunteer extraordinaire, philanthropist, and major supporter of numerous boards and community organizations.

“When I think of Dr. Toney, the word luminary comes to mind,” said President Gayle Hutchinson. “With his passion for social justice, innovation, and education, Dr. Toney was charismatic and inspiring, an exemplar. When you spoke with him, his sparkling eyes and contagious smile drew you in, making you feel like the most important person in the room.”

“When he served as a member of the Board of Trustees, we were so proud to call him one of our own,” Hutchinson continued. “He will be dearly missed, but his legacy will live on in the beautiful artwork he and his wife bestowed on campus and in the hundreds of lives he touched.” 

At his heart, Toney was always interested in improving the educational system at multiple levels. After working many years as a computer programmer at Lockheed Missile and Space, Inc., his career in education began in 1969, as he served as assistant superintendent of schools in Ravenswood City and Palo Alto Unified School Districts.

In 1979, Toney returned to the corporate setting as a senior executive, launching a 23-year career with Applied Materials, Inc., the largest supplier of products and services to the global semiconductor industry. Before his retirement in 2002, he was a key part of the executive team that led the company in growing annual revenue from $42 million to $10 billion and earning frequent recognition for its management, performance, diversity, and success. Among the many accolades, Fortune magazine profiled Applied Materials on its list of “Best Places to Work in America,” and Business Ethics named it one of the “100 Best Corporate Citizens.”

In the early 1990s, Toney was invited to be a founding member of the College of Engineering, Construction Management, and Computer Science advisory board. His deep community roots and passion for student success would be a tremendous asset, as well as his particular interest in the college’s MESA programs to promote engineering and technology to underrepresented students. Among his contributions were funding a summer science and engineering camp, and funding the Multicultural Engineering Program Blue Chip Scholars Program that established scholarship funds to recruit outstanding first-generation underrepresented students.

In 1995, the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management honored Toney as a Distinguished Alumnus. The CSU Board of Trustees and University followed suit by awarding him an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters—one of the system’s highest honors—in 2004, to pay tribute to his personal and professional achievements and meritorious service to society. He was honored by Chico State once again in 2011 with the Distinguished Alumni Service Award.

Educational Opportunity Program staff member Vicki Bass first met Toney more than 15 years ago while she was working in the Office of Admissions and said he was instrumental in the University’s outreach efforts, including the planning of several events for Black alumni.

“Because of his heart, vision, and generosity, he made CSU, Chico a better place and never stopped demanding that Chico strive to be a better place for our students,” she said. “His commitments to the success of African American students, the STEM field, and alumni were unwavering. His influence, along with his gentle laugh and warm smile, is something that I will miss.”

Toney was incredibly dedicated to his alma mater, serving as president of the Alumni Association, a member of the President’s Advisory Board, and as a board member for what is now the Gateway Science Museum. In 2018, he and his wife, Virginia, furthered their legacy to Chico State with a visionary gift of three paintings by African American artist William Tolliver that now hang in the Arts and Humanities Building, along with resources to support programs about and inspired by Tolliver and the paintings. They will surely inspire students for generations to come.

Community members from across campus describe Toney as not only a “true professional” but “a true friend” whose support for faculty and staff was as meaningful as it was for students.

“He was a mentor to many professionals and specifically to professionals of color,” said Pedro Douglas, retired associate vice president for Student Affairs. “Glen gave of his time, talent, and treasure to assist those in need. Considering his academic and professional achievements, Glen always remained humble and willing to help.”

Human Resources staff member and fellow Bethel AME Church member Robert Morton fondly remembers his contagious laugh, which he describes as a hallmark of the entire Toney family. While the two met later in life, Morton said Toney’s legacy will endure in Silicon Valley, Chico, Oroville, and beyond.

“He was a Black man who dared to dream, dared to believe, and ultimately he obtained those things he set his sights on,” he said. “Glen, or Mr. Toney as I called him, was a telling portrait of grace, love, and commitment to education.”

Inspired by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Toney was also committed to advancing civil rights and improving opportunities for the next generation. A longtime community leader, he served on the board of directors of the National Conference for Community Justice, the Bay Area School Reform Collaborative, and the East Palo Alto Boys Choir. He also served as chair of the 21st Century Education Initiative and chairman president of Applied Materials Global University, and was a member of the California State University Board of Trustees and a trustee for the Robert Noyce Foundation.

During his life, he received numerous awards, including The Leadership in Action Award for Outstanding Commitment to Education and Community from People Acting in Community Together, the David Packard Civic Entrepreneurs Award, the NAACP Community Service Award, and an honorary doctorate from Santa Clara University.

Toney is survived by his loving wife of 54 years, Virginia; daughters Nicole, Kellance, and Phoenix; two grandchildren, Keely and Kenneth; brother Charles Toney and his wife, Sophia; sister Virginia Walker and her husband, Dell; sister-in-law Lily Toney; and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, James and Alice Toney; his daughter, Kali; and his brothers, Walter, Robert, and Samuel.

The University flag will be lowered Monday, January 4, in his memory. ​We will share service details when we learn of them.