USF names College of Public Health building after Samuel P. Bell

The University of South Florida named its College of Public Health Building after the Honorable Samuel P. Bell III.

Bell, who passed away on March 14, is considered the “father” of USF’s College of Public Health and was a longtime champion of USF.

“Sam Bell was a passionate champion for the University of South Florida and we are proud to honor his profound legacy by dedicating the College of Public Health building in his name,” said Rhea Law, president of USF. “His influence and impact on public health policy will continue to benefit our university, region and state for generations to come.”

A House leader from Volusia County from 1974 to 1988, Bell sponsored legislation to create Florida’s first college of public health, at USF, in 1984.

“There would be no college of public health, no building to name, without a Sam Bell,” said Donna J. Petersen, senior associate vice president of USF Health. “He was a tireless advocate for public health and used his passion, his position and his powers of persuasion to create, out of nowhere, the first college of public health in the state of Florida, at USF.”

Petersen, who also serves as dean, added that it was the only college of public health, in the state, for many years and that Bell served as the first, and only, chair of its advisory council for nearly 40 years.

In 1989, Bell married then-Florida Education Commissioner Betty Castor, who would become USF’s fifth president. Bell met Castor when both were serving in the state Legislature. At the ceremony for renaming the college of public health, Castor announced an additional legacy gift to the college.

“Sam had a deep passion for serving the citizens of this state, and this university, in so many ways,” Castor said. “He would have been humbled, and honored, knowing his legacy will live on through his beloved college because of the students, faculty and patients he cared about so deeply.”

Bell’s previous recognitions from the university include a 2009 USF honorary Doctor of Public Health as well as the university’s highest honor to a non-alum, the Class of ’56 Award, presented in 2018. He was posthumously awarded USF’s Distinguished Citizen Award at the university’s 2023 spring commencement in May.

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