Before her retirement last fall as PHHP’s senior associate dean for public health, Mary Peoples-Sheps, Dr.P.H., helped establish new degree programs, departments and infrastructure, and twice led the college’s multi-year effort to achieve accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health. She recently took another step to ensure the success of public health programs at the University of Florida. She and her husband, David Sheps, M.D., M.S.P.H., a professor in the UF department of epidemiology, pledged a substantial bequest to the college. Bequest gifts are made through donors’ wills or trust and are a simple and flexible way to sustain the university in years to come.
They spoke to PHHP News about what motivated their decision to give.
Why did you decide to make a gift to PHHP?
The College of Public Health and Health Professions has taken an unusual and timely approach to developing an organizational structure, as well as academic and research programs in public health, that have the opportunity to enhance and to be enhanced by the health professions programs in the college. Both of us have health degrees — in medicine and nursing — in addition to degrees in public health. Thus, we have first-hand experience with the value of combining other health degrees with public health. The public health profession has developed a much stronger understanding of this concept in recent years, but PHHP was several steps ahead of the national agenda. This is a great example of PHHP’s record of forward-thinking, and it happens to be in an area that is very important to us.
In addition, both of us have found our experience working in the college to be rewarding and stimulating. The faculty and staff are top-notch, and the administrators are highly competent and professional. The students — at all levels — are truly outstanding. All of these major players in the college do high quality work in their respective roles. Yet, in today’s environment of state assistance of public universities, in contrast to state support, many of the opportunities that were available in the past, such as scholarships and travel funds, are very limited. Contributions are essential to make up these shortfalls in order to assure the highest quality of education and research.
What do you hope the gift will achieve?
Our main goal is to promote the development of public health in the college. While the college is more than 50 years old with a distinguished history and outstanding departments/programs, the public health components were added a little over a decade ago. These have grown rapidly and with great success, but it takes more time, more faculty, and more graduates to continue to flourish and achieve even greater levels of distinction. We hope to contribute to this exciting trajectory. At this time, we have not yet decided whether our bequest should support a professorship in a particular discipline or student opportunities or some combination of the two. However, we are confident that the answer to this question will emerge over the next few years.
Why is it important to give to the University of Florida?
Both of us are products of academic programs in land grant universities, and we have spent most of our professional careers in academic positions in public universities. We have seen the shift in state support as well as its effects throughout the country. For the past 16 years, we’ve been part of the UF community, and the university has provided many opportunities to us personally and professionally. We’ve been impressed with UF’s remarkable growth and responsiveness to opportunities. We’re very proud of UF, and we are pleased to be able to contribute to this land grant university.