School of Education 50th Anniversary Vignettes

The School of Education at the University of San Francisco is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding. Its antecedent, the Department of Education, began 75 years ago with 22 male students earning secondary teaching credentials. Today the School of Education enrolls more than 1,060 women and men from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds in a wide range of doctoral, master’s, credential, and certificate programs

School of Education: Vignette #2


Burl Toler was the first Black secondary school principal in the history of the San Francisco Unified School District. After earning a secondary teaching credential and master’s degree from the Department of Education at the University of San Francisco, he became a teacher in San Francisco. In 1968, he was named principal of the Benjamin Franklin Middle School, where he had taught for 14 years. In honor of his outstanding accomplishments as a teacher and administrator for the school district, Benjamin Franklin Middle School was renamed the Burl Toler Campus. 

Burl Toler’s first career was not in education, however, but in football. Burl was born in May 1928, in Memphis, Tennessee. His father was a Pullman porter, and his mother ran a small store and boarding house. After Burl graduated from Manassas High School in Memphis, he moved to Oakland and enrolled at City College of San Francisco in 1948. In 1949, Burl transferred to USF on an athletic scholarship in football, along with his roommate at City College, Ollie Matson. Burl earned a Bachelor of Science in Business from USF in 1952. He was co-captain of the famous 1951 USF football team, which was undefeated and untied, and from which a record nine players, including Burl, were drafted by the National Football League. Despite fielding one of the best collegiate football teams of all time, the 1951 Dons were not invited to play in any post-season bowl games unless they left their Black players—Burl Toler and Ollie Matson—at home. The team unanimously voted to refuse this offer, standing on principle against the racism of the times. Burl was drafted by the Chicago Cardinals professional football team, but he suffered a serious knee injury in the 1952 college all-star game in Chicago. Instead of playing football, he began officiating football. Starting with high school games, he worked his way up until, in 1965, he was invited to join the NFL, becoming the first Black NFL game official, and the first Black official in any North American professional sports league. Burl was an official in Super Bowls XIV and XVIII. From 1991 to 2001, Burl traveled throughout the Western region of the United States, recruiting officials for the NFL. In 2008, he was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame. 

In 1956, Toler obtained a secondary teaching credential from USF, and in 1966, he earned a master’s degree in education from USF. From 1954 to 1970, he served in the San Francisco Unified School District as a teacher, counselor, coach, dean, assistant principal, and principal, concurrent with his work with the NFL. From 1970 to 1991, he was Director of Personnel for the San Francisco Community College District. Burl dedicated his life to public service, and was a life member of the NAACP, a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity (Berkeley Alumni chapter), and a member of Sigma Pi Phi fraternity. He served on numerous boards of advisors and regents, including for the YMCA, Saint Ignatius College Preparatory, Hanna Boys Center, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, San Francisco Fine Arts Museums, and the Salvation Army. He was active in St. Emydius Catholic Church in San Francisco and was a member of the University of San Francisco Board of Trustees from 1988 to 1996. Among his many honors, Burl Toler was elected to the San Francisco African American Historical and Cultural Society’s Hall of Fame in 1977, was selected as the School of Education’s Alumnus of the Year in 1985, and he received USF’s Alumnus of the Year Award in 1995. 

Burl Toler considered both of his careers, as an educator and as an NFL official, as equally rewarding, and he gave a great deal of credit to USF. “They weren’t just interested in me as a football player, Toler said of his professors and advisors at USF, “when you have an institution that cares about the whole person, all these good things happen.” Burl Toler personifies the Jesuit values of USF and its School of Education: social justice, academic excellence, and community service. On May 9, 2017, USF honored Burl Abron Toler, Sr. by naming its first residence hall, built in 1955, in his memory. He was one of the institution’s truly outstanding graduates.

Burl Toler courtesy of the History MakersBurl Toler obtained a bachelor’s degree from USF, pursued a career as an NFL official, earned a master’s degree and a teaching credential from USF’s Department of Education, and became the first Black to serve as a principal of a secondary school in the history of the San Francisco Unified School District. Active in public service, and the recipient of many honors, USF named its first residence hall in his honor. History Makers, the Digital Repository for the Black Experience.

In 1951, when Burl Toler was an undergraduate at USF, the United States was still a largely segregated society. Neighborhoods, restaurants, public and private accommodations, and schools at every level across the nation were segregated by law and custom. The supreme law of the land, as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court, permitted separate public schools for white and black children. The famous Supreme Court decision in Brown v. the Board of Education declaring segregated schools to be “inherently unequal” was still three years down the legal road. In the South, segregation was virtually absolute everywhere and was upheld by city ordinances, state laws, and violence. In the North, segregation was also widespread and buttressed by social mores and on occasion by force. In July 1951, while the local police stood by and watched, a white mob of more than 2,000 people violently prevented a Black couple from moving into an all-white neighborhood in Cicero, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Change, however, was slowly coming to the nation. In 1947, Jackie Robinson signed a contract with Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, to become the first Black baseball player in the major leagues in 61 years, and the next year, President Harry Truman officially integrated the armed forces by executive order. 

The University of San Francisco was decades ahead of most of the nation in racial justice and fielded its first integrated football team in 1930. By that year, all of USF’s programs had become fully integrated. The 1951 USF football team, with its shoulder-to-shoulder Black and white players, was relatively rare by contemporary 1951 intercollegiate standards, but reflected a long-term value system on the hilltop campus. The finale to the 1951 football season, when racism prevented the Dons from playing in any post-season football games, revealed just how unique the USF value system was in the United States.

By the time Burl Toler received his master’s degree in education from USF in 1966, the United States had entered one of the most tumultuous decades in its history. The 1960s were punctuated by political assassinations, civil rights struggles, urban riots, a costly overseas war that led to demonstrations and death at home and abroad, and international tension that brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation. On the domestic front, widespread racial tensions, demonstrations, and demands for civil rights led President John F. Kennedy to propose sweeping civil rights legislation in 1963. Before Congress acted on that legislation, however, Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, successfully pushed through Congress the most significant civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, as well as laws affecting health care and education for underserved children and families. During the Johnson administration, the nation also became increasingly mired in what many Americans perceived as an unjust war in Vietnam. As the death toll mounted in Vietnam, demonstrations increased at home against the war, especially on college campuses. In the face of massive opposition to the Vietnam War, Johnson chose not to seek reelection in 1968. Senator Robert Kennedy of New York, John Kennedy’s brother and former U.S. attorney general, emerged as one of the leading Democratic contenders for the presidency, campaigning for an end to the Vietnam War and for increased civil rights and social programs at home. On April 19, 1968, Robert Kennedy visited USF as part of his presidential campaign in California. Senator Kennedy addressed a capacity audience in War Memorial Gymnasium, calling for action on behalf of the nation’s poor and an end to the Vietnam War. Less than two months later, Robert Kennedy was killed by an assassin’s bullet. On April 4, 1968, the leading civil rights leader in the nation, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., was also assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. In the face of demonstrations on the home front that increasingly turned violent, and with the Democratic Party in disarray after a riot-plagued Democratic Convention in Chicago in the summer of 1968, former vice president Richard Nixon, the Republican candidate, was elected president. In October 1969, more than a million people across the nation publicly demonstrated against the war in Vietnam.

During the 1960s, the University of San Francisco was affected by events on the national and international fronts, though the campus never experienced the level of violence and student strikes over the Vietnam War that rocked other college campuses such as Columbia, the University of Wisconsin, San Francisco State University, and the University of California at Berkeley. A small number of USF students were highly vocal, however, in their criticism of society’s ills and called for an end to the Vietnam War, greater rights for the nation’s underserved, and curriculum changes. Beginning in 1962, some USF students answered President Kennedy’s call for participation in the Peace Corps, and to this day USF is ranked as one of the top schools in the nation for its size with respect to the number of students who volunteer for the Peace Corps. 

In the immediate community, USF students were active in the 1960s in providing service to others. In 1962, for example, the Student Western Addition Project (SWAP) was founded, under the guidance of USF sociology professor Ralph Lane. By 1968, SWAP had become the largest student organization on campus, with approximately 250 members. The students’ goal was to assist underserved groups in the Western Addition of San Francisco, including providing special education and tutorial programs for children in local schools, recreational activities for families, and assistance to senior citizens. An offshoot of SWAP, called Whites Against Racism (WAR), tried to sensitize the student community to racist attitudes and policies prevalent in the broader community. A small number of students also traveled to the South to help register Black voters. 

In addition to a limited number of protest activities at USF during the late 1960s, the decade also witnessed the full integration of men and women into the traditional undergraduate program in 1964, some growth in the diversity of the student population, and the formation of the Black Student Union (BSU) in 1968. The 1969 USF Don Yearbook reported that with the founding of the Black Student Union, “blacks at USF laid the groundwork for the development, at the Hilltop, of a new program of social awareness.” 

Joseph E. Marshall Jr. was one of the co-founders of BSU in 1968, the year he received his bachelor’s degree from USF. In 1970, he obtained his teaching credential through USF’s Department of Education and was a teacher and administrator in the San Francisco Unified School District for more than 25 years. In 1987, Marshall co-founded the Omega Boys Club of San Francisco, which provided at-risk, inner-city youth, a support system that encouraged and supported them in academic pursuits and helped send many young men and women to college. Street Soldiers, the club’s violence-prevention effort, reached out to the community, and it included a radio talk show hosted by Marshall and violence-prevention training for its members. The Street Soldiers program was replicated in Los Angeles and Detroit. In 1997, Marshall was awarded the MacArthur Genius Award for his creativity and contributions to society. He also received the Children’s Defense Fund Leadership Award, the Essence Award, and the Use Your Life Award from Oprah Winfrey. In 1997, he obtained a Ph.D. from the Wright Institute of Berkeley, California. He was a contributing writer to the Huffington Post, was a member of the San Francisco Police Commission, and served on the USF Board of Trustees. In 2006, Joseph Marshall founded the Alive & Free Movement, which is dedicated to eliminating violence in the lives of young people worldwide, providing educational support, and granting scholarships to young people to attend college. In 2008, USF granted Marshall an honorary doctorate, and in 2017, it awarded him the California Prize for Service and the Common Good, the first USF graduate to receive that honor.

In 2018, BSU celebrated its 50th anniversary, and invited London Breed, San Francisco’s Mayor, and a graduate of USF’s MPA program to attend the anniversary celebration. Joseph Marshall was also in attendance at the anniversary celebration and was part of a discussion panel associated with the BSU celebration. In the fall of 2018, USF launched the Black Achievement Success and Engagement Program (BASE). The program offers high-impact academic and extracurricular programs for undergraduate and graduate students centering on the unique and varied experiences of Black students. BASE also provides Black students with a critical sense of belonging; opportunities for engagement in all aspects of university life and the broader Bay Area community; and the resources, skills, and support necessary to achieve academic success and secure rewarding careers.

Many of the issues and values articulated in the 1960s find expression in today’s graduate programs in the USF School of Education. In 2009, the school became the first in the nation to offer an emphasis in human rights for master’s and doctoral education students. In response to the increasing diversity of California’s public schools, the school was also one of the first in the nation to offer a master’s degree in urban education and social justice with a teaching credential. This program trains future educators to work in urban settings by focusing on the complex learning needs and strengths of urban students from diverse cultural, educational, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The School of Education currently offers a master’s in human rights education and a human rights education concentration within its doctoral program in international and multicultural education. These programs examine inequities of race, class, gender, sexual identity, and religion, among many other critical social justice issues. In 2022, students in the international and multicultural doctoral program founded and published an educational journal that addresses Black education from academic and nonacademic voices. The journal, named The Black Educology Mixtape, includes academic and nonacademic articles, poetry, images, and musical lyrics. The journal’s editors, including Brian Davis and T. Gertrude Jenkins, are education doctoral students in the international and multicultural program, and they obtained several grants to support the costs of publishing the journal. The Black Educology Mixtape is available online in the USF Scholarship Repository of the Gleeson Library. It has been downloaded nearly 500 times throughout the world, and there are plans for a second volume. Through the internet, the journal’s words and images reach an international and multicultural audience. The School of Education’s social justice and values-focused tradition continues. 


  • The highly segregated nature of the United States in 1951 is well documented in numerous publications, including African American History: Primary Sources, edited by Thomas Frazier, pages 365–386, and Reporting Civil Rights, American Journalism, 1941–1963.
  • The definitive study of the 1951 USF football team is found in the book, Undefeated, Untied, and Uninvited: A Documentary of the 1951 University of San Francisco Dons Football Team by Kristine Setting Clark, who holds a doctorate from USF’s School of Education.
  • Excellent short summaries of the 1951 football team and the season can also be found in the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle, including articles by Ken Garcia on July 8, 2000, and by Dwight Chapin on June 17, 2002.
  • Information on Burl Toler appears in an interview of him on March 7, 2006, that appeared in History Makers, Digital Repository for the Black Experience, and in several newspaper articles, including in the New York Times.
  • Information on Joseph E. Marshall Jr. appears on the website of the MacArthur Foundation (fellows › class-of-1994), and in an article by Mary McInerney, USF News, from March 9, 2017.
  • Details on The Black Educology Mixtape are found in an online article by Mary McInerney, in USF News, September 22, 2022: “Students Launch Black Education Journal”

Alan Ziajka, Ph.D. 
University Historian Emeritus
University of San Francisco

March 1, 2023

Twenty-two young men walked across the stage of the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco, their names were called, and they were handed their secondary teaching credentials by the President of the University of San Francisco, William Dunne, S.J. The men joined 350 other USF graduates at the institution’s ninetieth commencement, held on June 5, 1949. Four years earlier, in April of 1945, at the close of World War II, 282 delegates from 46 nations came to the same War Memorial Opera House to attend the United Nations Conference on International Organization and to establish the United Nations. The University of San Francisco invited the United Nations delegates to attend the Mass of the Holy Spirit in St. Ignatius Church on April 24, 1945. At the Mass, Fr. Dunne blessed the conference, scheduled to open the next day. On June 26, 1945, the delegates signed the United Nations Charter, which in its preamble called for the member nations “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained.” In the history of San Francisco and of the world, it was a significant day, though the charter’s ideals of justice and world peace are yet to be realized.

To help service members return to civilian life after World War II, Congress passed, and President Franklin Roosevelt signed, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the GI Bill of Rights. It was one of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of the nation. It entitled former military personnel to guaranteed loans for buying homes and setting up businesses, provided unemployment insurance, and most important for the nation’s colleges and universities, allocated funds to cover educational expenses. Thousands of individuals who had previously been deterred from attending college because of cost now had a major portion of their education subsidized by the federal government. This one law had a monumental educational and social effect on the nation and on its institutions of higher education, including the University of San Francisco.

The return of veterans at the end of World War II had major social consequences for the United States. For example, the number of births went from 2.5 million in 1940, to 3.6 million in 1950, and to slightly more than 4 million in 1955—a 57 percent increase in 15 years. This increase in births dramatically affected the nation’s schools, especially in California. Increasingly, California’s schools became overcrowded, and credentialed teachers were in short supply. To meet this need, the California State Department of Education sought out top-quality institutions of higher education that did not have teacher preparation programs and asked those schools to consider adding teacher-training programs to their curriculum. The University of San Francisco was one of the schools that repeatedly received these requests, and in the spring of 1947, USF started a Department of Education, chaired by Paul Harney, S.J. In January 1948, the State Department of Education approved USF’s granting of secondary school teaching credentials in content areas including foreign languages (French, Latin, and Spanish), English, life sciences and general science, physical science, and social studies. There was a heavy demand for the services of these newly minted teachers in 1949. The USF Placement Bureau reported in the Spring of 1949, more than 200 requests for the twenty-two credentialed teachers. The greatest need was for teachers of English, social studies, physical and life sciences, and business education.

black and white aerial view of lone mountain
The University of San Francisco as it appeared in early 1955. St. Ignatius Church, completed in 1914, is in the lower left of the photo, and to its right is Welch Hall (the Jesuit residence), built in 1921 and torn down in 1970. To the right of Welch Hall is the Liberal Arts Building, built in 1927; later named Campion Hall; and in 2008, renamed Kalmanovitz Hall. From 1947 to 1978, the Liberal Arts Building housed the Department of Education, renamed the School of Education in 1972, and many of USF’s other academic programs. In 1955, some classes were still held in barracks left over from World War II, as seen in the upper right of this photo, behind the Liberal Arts Building. UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO ARCHIVES

The founding professors of the USF Department of Education included Paul Harney, S.J.; John Martin, S.J.; Edward Griffin, who became the second department chair in 1956; professors John Devine and Henry Hall; and Thomas Reed, S.J., who later became principal of St. Ignatius Preparatory High School, and who also served on the San Francisco Board of Education from 1973 to 1978. By the fall of 1949, these founding professors had developed a program leading to a master’s in education in addition to a secondary teaching credential program. In 1951, the Department of Education added the secondary school administration and supervision credentials to its repertoire. By 1955, the junior college credential was approved, and in 1964, a counseling and guidance credential was added. In that same year, the regular undergraduate programs at USF became coeducational, and for the first time both women and men began to pursue undergraduate liberal arts programs with the goal of obtaining a credential at the secondary or elementary school levels.

In 1966, Katherine Bishop, a former public-school administrator, became the director of a new program exclusively designed to prepare credentialed elementary school teachers. Notable education professors who began their careers at USF during the 1960s and who retired as emeritus professors included Larry Bishop, who taught from 1967 to 1996; William Van Burgess, whose tenure ran from 1968 to 1990; James Counelis, professor of education from 1969 to 1998; Robert Lamp, who began a 27-year career at USF in 1968; Thomas McSweeny, professor of education from 1961 to 1984; and Anthony Seidl, who, beginning in 1966, taught at USF for 24 years. In 1974, Professor Seidl briefly served as USF’s provost and academic vice president.

In 1972, due to enrollment increases and the development of several new master’s programs in the Department of Education, the USF Board of Trustees voted to establish the School of Education. The vignettes that follow in this series will portray some of the dramatic changes in the School of Education since its origins in 1947 as the Department of Education.

During the fall of 2022, the USF School of Education enrolled 1,066 students. Among USF’s education students that fall, 8.3 percent were Black, 13.0 percent were Asian, 29.7 percent were Latino, 6.9 percent were international, 1.0 percent were Native American or Pacific Islander, and 32.8 percent were white. In the fall of 2022, 77.6 percent of the students in the School of Education were women, and 22.4 percent were men. Among the School of Education’s 18,628 living alumni, there are 1,635 K-12 teachers; 1,288 therapists, psychologists, counselors, or social workers; 854 administrators or directors; 460 principals; and 369 college professors. Notable alumni of the School of Education include Burl Toler, the first Black secondary school principal in the history of the San Francisco Unified School District; Martha Kanter, former Undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education; Joseph E. Marshall Jr. and Tommie Lindsey, recipients of the McArthur Foundation Genius Award; Valerie Ziegler, California Teacher of the Year for 2010; Kadmir Rajagopal, California Teacher of the Year for 2011; and Cynthia Rapaido, California Assistant Principal of the Year for 2013.

The School of Education currently offers a wide range of doctoral, master’s, credential, and certificate programs. These academic programs include eighteen master’s and credential programs to prepare teachers, counselors, and leaders to promote student success and to strengthen the community. Students can also pursue a master’s degree with a credential or a credential alone while completing an undergraduate degree. The School of Education offers four doctoral programs: Catholic Educational Leadership, Organization and Leadership, International and Multicultural Education, and Learning and Instruction. The various degree and credential programs are complemented by several certificate programs in technology, reading, teaching English to speakers of other languages, Catholic leadership, and bilingual authorization.

Although the USF School of Education has grown enormously since its parent, the Department of Education, conferred secondary teaching credentials upon twenty-two students in 1949, the core set of Jesuit values at the heart of the enterprise have been maintained. These values are centered on advancing justice through education; the importance of values-based education; and a commitment to education as a lifelong experience that encompasses academic, moral, social, and personal goals.


Details about the signing of the United Nations Charter in San Francisco, and the original charter, are found at the United Nations website. The June 1949 USF Commencement is described in the USF Alumnus of June 1949, page 4; and the outlook for graduating teachers that year is noted in the USF Alumnus of April 1949, page 7. The origins of the School of Education are recounted in Jesuits by the Golden Gate: The Society of Jesus in San Francisco, 1849 –1969 by John McGloin, S.J., pages 203–204; in the general catalogs of the university, especially the editions of 1947–1948, 1949–1950, 1950–1951, 1976–1978, and 2003–2005; and in the annual reports of the USF School of Education. Enrollment statistics for the fall of 2022 were furnished by Nathan Cain, Director, Institutional Research and Analytics, at USF. Current alumni data were supplied by Taryn Moore, USF’s Director of Alumni Engagement.

Alan Ziajka, Ph.D.
University Historian Emeritus
University of San Francisco

January 10, 2023