Bill and Jeanne Heller

Bill and Jeanne Heller love libraries. They also love USF St. Petersburg.

That combination prompted the Hellers to provide support for the new Jeanne and Bill Heller Scholars’ Lounge at the USFSP Nelson Poynter Memorial Library, a continuation of 21 years of consistent giving to the university.

Dr. Heller, Dean of the USFSP College of Education and director of the Bishop Center for Ethical Leadership and Civic Engagement, recalls many hours in the library pursuing his doctorate in special education. “When I wasn’t home,” he says, “I was at the library.”

Mrs. Heller, a retired elementary school librarian, loves modern libraries. “I started going to libraries when I was six years old,” Mrs. Heller says. “Back then all you could do was read and borrow books. Nowadays you can do almost anything in a library.”

That is especially true at the USFSP library, which has been reimagined for the digital age by Dean Carol Hixson. Dr. Heller sees the Scholars’ Lounge as another step in the library’s evolution.

“The heart of any academic institution is the library and this library has really become a gathering place for students and the university community,” Dr. Heller explains. “They can study, read, work in groups or alone and have access to the latest technology. I just love to see the library buzzing.”

The Jeanne and Bill Heller Scholars’ Lounge is designed to be an inviting, quiet space amid the first-floor group-study area, with moveable furniture, glass-enclosed walls and a view of Bayboro Harbor.

The Hellers, married for 59 years, have given generously to the USF System over 21 years, from the library to athletics to the Latino Scholarship Program. One is personal: The H. William Heller Scholarship in Special Education.

“I know how much scholarships meant to me,” says Dr. Heller, whose family could not afford college. “And I know how much it means to students today trying to make ends meet.”

Toi Basso is one. “If I had not received this scholarship my education would have stopped,” she said. Instead, she graduated maga cum laude in May of 2013 and begins teaching this fall at Deltona Elementary in Spring Hill. “I am so grateful for that scholarship.”

Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska praised the Hellers for their dedication to USFSP. “Their generosity is inspiring,” she said. “The entire university community, and particularly our students, will benefit for years to come thanks to the contributions they have made.”

Tampa, Academic Program Support, Tampa College of The Arts