After graduating from BUA, Larry Tobin ‘05 received his BA from Boston University in 2007. He refined his fundraising and leadership skills at Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), where he worked from 2008-2017, most recently as Associate VP of Major Gifts. During this time, he also earned his MBA and MA at Brandeis University. This past August, Tobin became the first Director of the Shapiro Foundation, a private foundation which works to serve and resettle refugees across the world. In his free time, Tobin enjoys spending time with his wife Jesse & 8mo daughter Ruthie, deep woods XC ski & canoe trips, and being a Patriots Season Ticket Holder.
Can you explain what the Shapiro Foundation strives to accomplish and what some of your primary responsibilities are as Director?
Our primary goal is to serve the world’s most vulnerable and overlooked population: refugees. We focus especially on the two opposite ends of the lifecycle of a refugee–when a crisis first erupts and before Int’l funding can arrive (first 60 days of a crisis) and on increasing the number of those resettled in developed countries and the efficacy of getting those individuals towards long-term self-sufficiency. We actively drive three separate projects focused on disrupting resettlement by making it a more community-based, long-term focused and prevalent practice in the US and throughout the world.
Beyond our active efforts with refugees, we also passively fund a few dozen NGOs in healthcare, humanitarian and legal aid, community development in Boston, social services and innovation in Israel, and Jewish education.
I joined Ed & Barbara, the incredible founders and funders of the foundation, in August 2017 after years of a meaningful relationship we built via CJP and my first alma mater The Rashi School. Because I am the first professional and Ed recently “retired” from his first career to focus on philanthropy, our responsibilities are very fluid. Ed & I coordinate on a daily basis to have as much impact as possible, and what that entails shifts by the day.
Has there been a moment in your career that was particularly surprising, challenging, or defining – or something that sticks with you to this day?
There is a tremendous philanthropist in Boston named Jeff Swartz who leads trips to Israel for change-makers. I have had the incredible opportunity to accompany him three times since 2012, and each time I come back more introspective about who I am and what I stand for and with a clearer charge for my role in the world.
Each day of my new role is massively challenging because it’s entirely unchartered territory, deeply intellectually stimulating and something I have literally no content expertise in. In addition my boss/ partner is brilliant and thoughtful and pushes me…in so many ways it’s actually analogous to my BUA career all over again.
Was there a class, professor, or experience that helped solidify your passion for philanthropy?
- At BUA, I was one of the rare students that had a far higher EQ than IQ. I learned that at an early age at BUA, and that discovery helped me understand exactly who I am and what my strengths are. I was never going to be in the top half of the class academically, and for that matter I was never going to be a starter on the basketball team (though I did score 1pt in our first ever championship in ‘04!), but I was great as a peer leader and worked with the administration and that very much so has paved the way for my career.
- BUA enabled me to have a completely tailored secondary and tertiary education. While a BUA student, I was able to take a directed study with a renowned BU Professor on anti-semitism. That directed study led me to become a religion major at BU and to pursue two additional directed studies–including one comparing Jewish and Evangelical philanthropy. All of this, plus my ability to complete my BA in two years is a direct result of BUA which more than anything catapulted my career beginning at the age of 20.
Are there lessons you learned inside or outside the classroom at BUA that you have carried into your career?
BUA taught me to be a hungry self-advocate. BU is a world-class research institution and I had a 100% success rate with gaining access to everything at BU while an Academy student. Whether it was an internship in the sports marketing department, a thesis advisor helping me study transportation between Boston and NY, or continuing the study of Modern Hebrew which I had done until 7th grade, BU gave me everything. Many of those tools have served me since graduation, but the real gift was intangible of being handed gifts that I could only access if I asked the right person, in the right way, at the right time. That is the gift that keeps giving.