The SDSU School of Public Health began only a vision – a dream shared by James W. Cobble, Dean of the Graduate Division at SDSU, the late Dr. John J. Hanlon, former Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service and a father of modern public health, and Thomas B. Day, former President of SDSU.
In 1976, Dr. Hanlon was asked by Dean Cobble to participate in a review and reorganization of the health programs at SDSU. A plan was developed for the establishment of a school of public health. An early draft of this plan includes a three-page hand-drawn timeline from which the SPH would later take shape. In March 1978, the Chancellor of the California State University system, Glenn S. Dumke, sent a letter to then Acting President of SDSU, Trevor Colburn, officially approving the proposal to create the SPH. Also approved at this time was the formation of a new College of Health and Human Services, uniting the future SPH with the existing Schools of Social Work and Nursing, and the Departments of Health Science and Communicative Disorders.
By 1979, searches and interviews for SPH faculty were taking place. First to be recruited was the Director of the SPH, F. Douglas Scutchfield, M.D., from the University of Alabama’s College of Community Health. Along with Muriel Kulikowski, the newly-hired administrative assistant, also known as the “founding mother” of the SPH, Doug Scutchfield was charged with making the new School operational. During 1980-81, Stephen J. Williams, Helen Wallace, Tee L. Guidotti, and Anita Bahn were recruited to head four of the new SPH programs: Health Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health, Occupational and Environmental Health, and Epidemiology. The following year Melbourne F. Hovell was recruited to become the first head of the fifth division, Health Promotion.
In 1980, the SPH suffered its first loss with the unexpected death of Anita Bahn. Herschel Griffin, former Dean of the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh and, at that time, Associate Director of the SDSU SPH, agreed to lead Epidemiology until the arrival of Abram S. (Bud) Benenson in late 1981. Herschel became the School’s first Emeritus faculty member in 1987.
Twelve additional faculty had joined the five divisions by the time the School officially opened in the Fall of 1981 to welcome the first graduate degree candidates into all five major public health disciplines. In those days the SPH was headquartered in a building adjacent to the SDSU campus on College Avenue. In 1982, the first class of 10 Maternal and Child Health graduates was honored in an informal ceremony at the Faculty-Staff Centre. The following year, all five divisions held a more elaborate honors convocation for their graduating classes. Distinguished guest speakers at honors ceremonies for students during this first decade of the SPH have included former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop; Executive Director William McBeath and former President Ruth Roemer of the American Public Health Association; William Foege, then Director of the Centers for Disease Control; Donald Millar, Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; and Kenneth Kizer, former Director of the California Department of Health Services.
In 1982, the SPH was awarded pre-accreditation status by the Council for Education in Public Health (CEPH). In 1983, Peter A. Dual became the new Dean of the College of Health and Human Services. J. William (Bill) Cox also joined the SPH faculty that year as the second Associate Director of the SPH. In 1985, the SPH met CEPH criteria for full national accreditation.
As the School continued to grow, plans for renovation of the Hardy Memorial Tower building included new offices to be occupied by many of the SPH faculty, as well as new computer and wet chemistry laboratory facilities. In 1986, after an interim period in SDSU Foundation rental space in the Alvarado complex, the SPH moved into its current location beneath Hardy Memorial Tower.
Other highlights include the addition of the Master of Science (MS) degree offering in 1990; acceptance of the first class of students into the new Doctoral Program in Epidemiology, jointly offered by the SPH and the Department of Community and Family Medicine, University of California San Diego, in Fall 1990; and the highly successful Tenth Anniversary Conference held in October 1991, with keynote speakers Molly J. Coye, Director of the California Department of Health Services, and J. William Cox, formerly Director of the San Diego County Department of Health Services.