USF St. Petersburg Renames Building in Honor of Bill Heller, Former Dean and Community Leader

Bill Heller

For more than a quarter of a century, Bill Heller has been a transformative figure at USF St. Petersburg, filling the roles of campus CEO, dean, professor and advocate. Now the university is recognizing his many years of devoted service by naming the building where he taught in his honor.

Coquina Hall, which houses the College of Education, will now officially be known as H. William Heller Hall. The university marked the occasion with a ceremony on Wednesday, May 15 at the University Student Center.

“Bill Heller has left a legacy at USF St. Petersburg that will be felt for generations to come,” said Martin Tadlock, Regional Chancellor at USF St. Petersburg. “His wisdom, his leadership and his kindness made a lasting impact on all who are fortunate enough to know him. We are so pleased to have the opportunity to recognize Bill’s many contributions by renaming Coquina Hall in his honor. It’s our way of saying thank you for years of generous service to our university and to our region.”

More than 300 guests attended the ceremony, reflecting the many communities Heller touched over the past 27 years. He came to St. Petersburg from the University of North Carolina Charlotte in 1992 to serve as dean and campus CEO at USF St. Petersburg.

Heller is credited with helping launch USFSP’s transformation from a small, commuter campus that served only upperclassmen and graduate students to the thriving regional university it is today.

After stepping down from this leadership role at USFSP in 2002, Heller became a professor, dean of the College of Education and director of the Bishop Center for Ethical Leadership. He announced his retirement late last year.

In addition to his many roles at the university, Heller was also a noted community leader. He served as a member of the Florida House of Representatives from 2006-2010, representing House District 52.

Charlie Justice, a former member of the Florida House of Representatives who now serves as a Pinellas County Commissioner, filed the legislation in 2006 to rename Coquina Hall after Heller once he retired. The two met when Justice was a student assistant at USF St. Petersburg working on his degree and they later served in the Florida Legislature together.

During the ceremony, Justice told the crowd he was excited to have Heller serving alongside of him and thought he might be able to impart a little wisdom to his friend and mentor.

“I wanted to finally be able to maybe, just maybe, share a little experience with him,” said Justice. “I had been up there for years. Maybe I could show him the ropes. That was Monday. By Tuesday, he did what he always did. He learned and he worked and was an instant leader on issues that mattered.”

Heller also served on a multitude of boards and committees throughout the region. He was president of the board of Bayfront Medical Center, the chair of the Pinellas Cultural Foundation, an honorary life member of Great Explorations, a board member emeritus of the Mahaffey Theater Foundation and was active on the board of SPCA Tampa Bay.

“He is, as we like to say in St. Pete, one of the reasons the ‘sun shines here,’” said Kanika Tomalin, Deputy Mayor and City Administrator for the city of St. Petersburg. “For decades he has been the very embodiment of our Sunshine City, his bright, warm light illuminating all those fortunate to cross paths with him.”