1. Education

How a mutual 'love affair' led to a $2 million gift for USF St. Petersburg

Students walk near the main entrance to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, where Josephine Hall (inset) was a frequent visitor. Hall audited classes and could frequently be found in the campus library. She died in 2017 at age 98 and left $2 million to the downtown school. The money will go to the library and to bolster arts programs. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Dec. 28, 2018

Josephine Hall's father died when she was young, and her mother was often gone, traveling the world as a concert pianist.

She never married or had a family of her own — until she moved to St. Petersburg.

It was the 1960s, and though Hall was still splitting her time at a second home in New York City, she fell in love with her life in the Sunshine State. It was here, at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, just across the street from her downtown condo, that she finally found the true companionship she had wanted for so long.

Hall died in November 2017 at age 98, leaving the university $2 million. She pledged half to the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library, where she could often be found reading or chatting about art.

How to spend the rest was left up to campus chancellor Martin Tadlock, who announced the gift in October. Now he is planning to launch improvements for students studying the arts in St. Petersburg, where programs are fewer and smaller than those available at USF Tampa.

In the spring, the chancellor will launch a fundraising campaign to match Hall's donation. In the meantime, the arts faculty at USF St. Petersburg will put together a spending plan. Tadlock hopes to double Hall's library contribution, too, knowing how much it meant to her.

"The library gave her something to get up and go do every day," said Debbie Cassill, a friend of Hall and an associate professor of biology at USF St. Petersburg. "I was unaware of her wealth and unaware she was donating to the university, but it makes sense in hindsight. It was her family."

Cynthia Orozco, Hall's longtime attorney who managed her estate, called her a "cultural junkie." She loved traveling and anything creative. Money didn't give her happiness; people and experiences did, Orozco said.

At USF St. Petersburg, Hall sat in on art history classes, soaking up all the knowledge she could, Cassill said. She also audited other classes, Tadlock said, doing the assignments even though she didn't have to.

Kathy Rodman moved into Hall's building, in a unit just two doors down, about eight years ago. Together, they read and went for walks. Hall showed Rodman her childhood yearbooks and paintings by famous artists. They discovered a mutual love for classical music.

"She would visit at my apartment and I would visit at hers," Rodman said. "She was a wonderful listener. … She was always very much interested in everyone around her."

When Hall's memory started to slip away, she moved into a retirement home. But Rodman kept up their regular visits, taking Hall to the park or for a drive, even when her friend could no longer recognize her.

"She always enjoyed my company even when she didn't know who I was anymore," she said.

Like Rodman, many at USF cared deeply for Hall. It was a "mutually beneficial love affair" that she had with the university, Cassill said, remembering Hall's stories about her lonely childhood and the community she longed for.

"So much of her life was seeking out an extended family and an extended home," the professor said. "I think she found that here."

Contact Megan Reeves at Follow @mareevs.


  1. A roundup of stories from around the state.
  2. Olivia Pruna, a student at Nina Harris Exceptional Student Education Center, practices with the school's drum line last year. The Pinellas County school district is asking parents and others for suggestions on ways to improve exceptional student education in the county. DOUGLAS CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    News and notes about K-12 schools and colleges in Pinellas County.
  3. Steven Currall prepares to deliver an address during his investiture as the University of South Florida's seventh president Thursday at the Yuengling Center in Tampa. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    Though he started the job in July, Steve Currall is officially installed as president on his 137th day in office.
  4. Gov. Ron DeSantis greets local officials at Dunedin High School on Oct. 7, 2019, part of a swing around the state to announce his plan to boost starting teacher pay in Florida to $47,500. He revealed a related teacher bonus plan on Nov. 14 in Vero Beach. MEGAN REEVES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The new plan would replace the controversial Best and Brightest model that DeSantis had called confusing.
  5. Hillsborough Community College solicited "non-binding letters of interest or intent” last month from developers interested in purchasing the Dr. Gwendolyn W. Stephenson District Administration Center on Davis Islands. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Developers have eyed the 3.7 acre waterfront parcel for years, but recent interest has prompted the college’s trustees to finally start the conversation.
  6. Cotee River Elementary student Darrell Jones waves his American flag during the school's Veterans Day program.
    The School Board is scheduled to vote on the calendar next week.
  7. Pasco eSchool principal JoAnne Glenn is surprised by school district officials who announced she is their 2020 Principal of the Year. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff
    A discussion with Pasco County Principal of the Year JoAnne Glenn.
  8. An investiture ceremony is set for Thursday at 2 p.m. inside USF’s Yuengling Center in Tampa. Currall and other USF leaders will speak about the school’s future.
  9. Experts are recommending the flu shot as outbreaks pop up in Hillsborough County schools.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  10. The Pasco County school district is considering an increase in substitute teacher pay to combat its low fill rate for the jobs.
    District officials say more competitive wages could help fill vacancies, which have been rising.