heyIn his 35-year career in the United States Army, Major General R. Mark Toy, MS ’96, has served the nation in active war zones and overseen the vast water resources of his Corps of Engineers before retiring from the Army on July 1. When presented with the opportunity to return to his Southern California roots to help solve one of the state’s most pressing challenges, though, the two-star veteran couldn’t say no.
A Bruin engineer with a master’s degree in environmental engineering, Toye served as chief of staff for the United Nations Command in South Korea from August 2020 to April 2022 and as commanding general of the Mississippi Valley Division from August 2019 to June 2020 He played his part. These two posts mark the culmination of his decades-long military career, in which he was transferred 20 times, including his deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
A fourth-generation Chinese American, Toy became the first Chinese American officer in the US Army Corps of Engineers to be selected as a one-star general and the first two-star major general of Chinese American descent in the Corps. He has earned numerous awards and decorations including the Army Distinguished Service Medal, Combat Action Badge, and Bronze Star.
Born in San Francisco and raised in Huntington Beach, California, Toye was on the gymnastics team at Marina High School when he was recruited by the United States Military Academy at West Point in his senior year upon receiving a congressional nomination.
“Once I learned more about West Point and the possibility of serving our country, I knew I wanted to challenge myself at the highest level: academically, athletically, and in leadership,” Toye said of the military school. said of his decision to attend where he graduated. Bachelor of Science degree in Operations Research in 1987 and a commission as a second lieutenant in the US Army Corps of Engineers. “I didn’t think I would be in the army for so long; I only had to pay for five years after graduation, but I loved serving.”
In 2010, Toye’s work with the military took him back to his home state for the first time since graduating from UCLA in 1996. His first assignment was in Los Angeles, where he served as commander of the Los Angeles District of the US Army Corps of Engineers. , For his second assignment in California in 2014, he moved to San Francisco to oversee some of the most major engineering operations in the western US as commanding general of the Corps’ South Pacific Division – all or parts of 10 states in the Southwest. extending from the New Mexico/Texas state line to southern Oregon, covering Manages federal resources for the navigation of toy waterways, implements strategies to protect ports against flooding, and helps restore natural ecosystems.
As he advanced through the ranks in the military, Toy continued to pursue higher education, earning MBA from Boston University prior to his advanced studies at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering on a full ride scholarship from the Army. Inspired by his brother, who is also an environmental engineer, Toye decided to pursue the field at UCLA for both its proximity to family and its top-notch program.
“My experience at UCLA was incredible. I made life-long friends and colleagues, some of whom I still keep in touch with today,” Toy said. The program helped prepare him to teach at West Point as an assistant professor in environmental engineering after graduation. “Not surprisingly, some of the tests I took at West Point looked a lot like the tests I took as a student at UCLA!”
With his extensive experience in water resource management and professional licensure in environmental engineering, Toy took on a new challenge in August as general manager of the Yorba Linda Water District. Located south of Los Angeles, public agency that serves residents of the city of Yorba Linda as well as Anaheim, Placentia, Brea and unincorporated Orange County.
“My experience at UCLA was incredible. I made life-long friends and colleagues, some of whom I still keep in touch with today,” R. Mark Toy said.
In his new role, Toy is charged with ensuring safe and reliable water and sewer services, maintaining the District’s financial accountability and its operational effectiveness, building community partnerships, and maintaining the engagement of the District’s workforce.
As California continues its fight against extreme drought, ensuring water delivery to protect the environment while serving the district’s communities will be a major undertaking for Toye. But he is well prepared for the challenge with his myriad leadership experiences and problem-solving engineering training.
Toy said his time in the military taught him that the best way to address the environmental challenges of today’s world is through collaboration between academic institutions, businesses and all levels of government. For Toy, the foundation of his leadership style and philosophy is centered on the idea of caring for people and building strong relationships – an advice he would like to pass on to UCLA students as well.
“Even though you are attending school and trying to excel academically, you need to take the time to connect with people in the UCLA engineering program and develop relationships with your peers and faculty.” “Positive relationships are the key to success when moving into a leadership role in any career field.”
Riley de Jong contributed to this story.