Joseph J. Sabatella came to the University of Florida in 1959 to teach drawing and design in the Department of Architecture. In 1966 he became assistant dean and in 1974 acting dean of the College of Architecture and Fine Arts. He was appointed Dean of the College of the Arts in 1975. At the time of his appointment, he became the sole administrator of the new college aided only by two full-time staff personnel. During his time as Dean of the College of the Arts he sought to give the arts greater visibility on campus in many ways including opening up the introductory art classes to non-majors. He was involved in the creation of the Harn Museum. He was a member of the Fine Arts Commission of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, served on the Executive Board of Directors of the International Council of Fine Arts Deans, and the Executive Committee of the Florida Higher Education Arts Network. His artwork has been represented in numerous national and regional exhibitions, and is included in many private collections in the U.S. and England. His work can also be seen as the illustrations in several books. He is listed in Men of Achievement, Personalities of the South, Who's Who in American Art, and Who's Who in America. He stepped down as Dean to return to teaching in 1990 and retired in 1996.