Temple University Mourns the Unexpected Death of Acting President JoAnne Epps


Unexpectedly, Temple University’s Acting President, JoAnne Epps, passed away on a somber Tuesday afternoon. Epps fell ill during a memorial service being held on campus for Charles L. Blockson, the curator of the Blockson Collection. Soon after, she was rushed to Temple University Hospital where she was pronounced dead around 3:15 p.m, stunning the Philadelphia-based university community.

Daniel del Portal of the Temple University Health System noted that Epps had suffered a sudden episode during the event. The EMS staff promptly attended to her and she was subsequently transported to the hospital. Despite the relentless resuscitation efforts at the hospital, they proved unsuccessful.

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A seasoned member of the Temple community, Epps had stepped into the position of Acting President in early April following the resignation of her predecessor, Jason Wingard. His departure had come in the wake of ongoing campus safety concerns and a decline in student enrollment. Prior to her presidency, Epps had an accomplished career at the university spanning over thirty years, encompassing positions such as the dean of the law school, executive vice president and provost, and chief academic officer.

Ken Kaiser, Temple University’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, underscored Epps’s meteoric rise from a job at the school’s book store to the presidency. He characterized her as an embodiment of the best of Temple, someone who was universally beloved and who had a profound influence on those around her.

Before joining the university’s faculty, Epps distinguished herself as an assistant US attorney from 1980 to 1985. Jacqueline C. Romero, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, hailed her as a tireless, passionate legal icon devoted to public service, equity and diversity, experiential legal education, and the advancement of civil rights. Notably, Romero also spoke fondly of her personal relationship with Epps, who was her mentor and confidante.

Reflecting her deep attachment to the institution, Epps had written, on accepting the position of acting president, of how significant the university had been in her life. In fact, her connection ran deep, with her mother having served as a secretary at the school for 40 years. She was always eager to interact with the Temple community, cherishing the stories and dreams shared by students, staff and alumni.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro has joined the many voices expressing their grief. Describing Epps as a powerful force and constant ambassador for Temple University, he said that her loss was a heartbreaking moment for Philadelphia. As he extended his condolences to her loved ones, he fervently wished that Epps’s memory be a blessing.