COPH turns 35 years young!

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A jewel in the crown of the University of South Florida, the College of Public Health (COPH) was founded in statute by the Florida Legislature in 1984 as the first school of public health in the state.

“USF was chosen as the place for Florida’s College of Public Health,” Dr. Peter Levin, the college’s first dean wrote in 1984, “because of the broad base of knowledge found in the many colleges of the University and the unique Tampa location.”

Three decades of growth and innumerable success stories later, former Fla. Rep. Samuel P. Bell, III shed more light on the founding of COPH. It all started with one person’s idea and another person’s decision to act on it.

The idea person was Robert Hamlin, a graduate of the Harvard University College of Public Health. He brought his idea to Bell, dubbed “the godfather of the college” by Charles Mahan, another founder and COPH dean from 1995 to 2002.

“He had realized that there was not a college of public health in Florida,” Bell recalled of Hamlin. “He contacted my staff director, John Phelps, with the idea, and John and I discussed the idea and decided that we should pursue the project.”

Since the COPH’s founding, the college has provided excellence in public health education, leadership, advocacy, research and service.

This July, the COPH is celebrating 35 years of educating public health professionals. Make plans now to participate in events in Tampa, around the nation and online that recognize this historic milestone.

Read more about the founding of the COPH here.

From left: Dean Donna Petersen, Robert Hamlin and Sam Bell. (Photo courtesy of the USF COPH)

Upcoming events:

Festivities are planned for the next 12 months! Here’s a sample of offerings for the 35th anniversary.

  • COPH Birthday Party—On July 12, faculty, staff and students are invited to celebrate the COPH’s 35th birthday! Like most birthday parties, we will have cake, punch, giveaways, and sing “Happy Birthday!” Complimentary, 5-minute chair massages will be the icing on the cake!
COPH birthday cake from the COPH’s 30th Anniversary. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Preston)
  • 7@7 Dinner with Alums—On Sept. 19, here’s your chance to not only meet an alum but have dinner with him or her and ask up-close-and-personal questions about how to make your degree work for you or get involved on campus. Alumni can also help you decide what path you should choose if you’re unsure. Open to all COPH students.
  • USF Health Homecoming Tailgate—Mark your calendar for Oct. 12 and plan to connect with fellow Bulls as we cheer on our football team! Enjoy food and beverage, swag, and family fun! Ticket information to come.
  • In Your Neighborhood Series— The COPH is coming to St. Petersburg, Washington D.C., Atlanta and Chicago! Connect with COPH alumni over dinner and visit with current faculty.
  • Gasparilla Distance Classic—Run, walk, jog and do whatever it takes to cross the finish line! There are multiple distances to choose from, and Team #usfcophrocks will have participants represented in all of them. Save the date for Feb. 22-23 and prepare to kick asphalt!
  • Talent Show—Do you have the music within you? Do you have movement? Want to let you comedic side out? The college is filled with talent and we want to celebrate it. Stay tuned for more information and start practicing now!
  • Alumni Awards Ceremony—The college is home to a plethora of awesome graduates. Make plans to nominate one (or two, or more) for a COPH alumni award.
COPHer’s showing off their medals at the 2014 Gasparilla Distance Classic for the COPH’s 30th Anniversary. (Photo courtesy of Emily Bronson)

Stay up-to-date on the festivities by vising the 35th anniversary website. It’s one-stop shopping for events, news, giving and more.

This initiative is part of the USF College of Public Health’s yearlong 35th anniversary celebration.  To learn more about giving to the COPH, contact Kara Steiner ’06 at or (813) 974-3023.

For additional information or to help plan 35th anniversary events, contact Caitlin Keough at