Paul Nicoletti, DVM, MS, a longtime University of Florida benefactor and infectious diseases professor who got his start in government service, died Jan. 31. He was 83.
Dr. Nicoletti, who was raised on a dairy farm in Goodman, Mo., may never have pursued veterinary medicine had he not received a $150 scholarship from Sears, Roebuck and Co., the university reported.
“I’m not going to tell you I wouldn’t have gone to college without it, but for a 17-year-old boy who was tired of milking cows, the incentive that scholarship provided truly made a difference,” Nicoletti stated in a 2013 UF article. “It was not just a financial incentive, but a psychological one as well.”
Nicoletti earned his veterinary degree from the University of Missouri in 1956 and a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1962.
His career in public health began in 1962 with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he served as a regional epidemiologist. A four-year role with the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization took him to Iran as an epizootiologist—someone who studies disease outbreaks in animal populations.
His return to USDA landed him a job in Gainesville, Fla., in 1975, and about three years later he joined the faculty at UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine, where he taught infectious diseases, epidemiology, public health and food safety until his retirement in 2003.
His USDA career also involved research into brucellosis, a zoonotic bacterial infection. The university credited Nicoletti with making “a lasting contribution to Florida agriculture by improving the procedures used to control brucellosis.”
“An internationally renowned authority on this disease, Nicoletti’s efforts led to the eventual eradication of brucellosis in Florida,” UF stated.
Among the honors bestowed on Nicoletti were Veterinarian of the Year, presented in 1994 by the Florida Veterinary Medical Association; the college’s Distinguished Service Award in 2003; and the American Veterinary Epidemiology Society’s Meyer-Steele Gold Head Cane Award in 2010.
Never forgetting his $150 scholarship, Nicoletti later in life played direct and indirect roles in millions of dollars worth of fundraising for the veterinary college.
Upon his retirement as professor emeritus he started a needs-based scholarship for third- and fourth-year veterinary students pursuing a career in public health. A second scholarship fund was endowed for students interested in food, animal medicine and reproduction. He also pledged $1 million to support the Nicoletti Florida Opportunity Scholarship, and in 2015 he donated $100,000 to the college’s new UF Veterinary Access Scholarship Program.
A $1.3 million gift from the estate of Bob and Evelyn Deriso was made in Nicoletti’s honor and led to the construction of Deriso Hall and a room dedicated in his name.
“I was not the best paid person in my department when I was on the faculty at UF, but have managed well and feel like giving back is important,” Nicoletti stated. “The University of Florida gave me a job when I needed one and for 26 years I taught at UF and enjoyed the classroom and the students.”
Nicoletti is survived by two daughters and four grandchildren. His wife, Earlene, died in 2011.
The university asked that any gifts in Nicoletti’s memory be made to the Office of Development, UF College of Veterinary Medicine, P.O. Box 100125, Gainesville, Fla. 32610-00125 or at http://bit.ly/1ShgzEx.