USF honors Sam Bell with honorary degree

USF has one of the best public health schools in the nation, a fact that can be credited to Samuel P. Bell, III, Esq.

While a member of the Florida House of Representatives, Bell helped push the legislation that created the USF College of Public Health in 1984, the state’s first and longest-standing public health college. In addition, he introduced and had enacted some the most important pieces of legislation concerning public health and health care issues of the past 50 years, most focusing on the needs of children and families.

For these tireless efforts and his continued support, the highly respected veteran public official received an honorary Doctor of Public Health degree at USF’s commencement ceremony, Dec. 12.

Sam Bell received his hood from USF President Judy Genshaft and COPH Dean Donna Petersen at USF’s fall commencement.

“Sam Bell exemplifies everything we teach our students about passion and advocacy, leadership and commitment,” said Donna Petersen, ScD, MHS, dean of the USF College of Public Health, who nominated Bell for the degree.

“He saw a need and gathered an incredible group of individuals with extraordinary talents around him to pull all the pieces together.”

Last June, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and Gov. Charlie Crist recognized the COPH 25th Anniversary with a formal resolution. Pictured here with the resolution in Tallahassee are, from left, USF President Judy Genshaft, COPH founder Sam Bell (holding signed resolution), USF Health CEO Dr. Stephen Klasko, COPH Interim Associate Dean Dr. Deanna Wathington; Betty Castor of USF Patel Center, and USF Health Development Director Doug Kerr.

Bell’s commitment to USF continued beyond establishing the College. He is a founding member and current chair of the College of Public Health Advisory Board, has funded a USF scholarship for deserving students, and has advocated on USF’s behalf in Tallahassee and in Washington, DC.

“Unlike other folks who build and then move on, Sam has nurtured us with his wisdom and his energy all these years,” Dr. Petersen said.

“Sam is not only the founder of the College but its best friend and biggest champion. We will always be grateful to Sam for his vision and his actions on behalf of public health in Florida.” 

Gov. Charlie Crist presented the signed resolution.

Bell earned an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and his law degree from Duke University. He is an attorney with Pennington, Moore, Wilkinson, Bell and Dunbar, PA, and served in the Florida legislature for 14 years. During that time, he served as chairman of the Rules Committee, the Commerce Committee and the Appropriations Committee, and as the House Majority Leader. He was selected by his House of Representatives colleagues as the most respected member of the House and honored by the Miami Herald as the outstanding member of the House.

– Story by Sarah Worth, USF Health Communications