Temple University, located in Philadelphia, was struck by tragedy on September 19, 2023, as the acting president, JoAnne A. Epps, passed away. The sudden demise of Epps during a memorial service left the university community in shock and mourning. Epps, who had dedicated nearly four decades of her life to Temple University, was known for her compassion, leadership, and unwavering commitment to the institution.
A Sudden Episode on Stage
The memorial service at Temple University was being held to honor Charles L. Blockson, a curator renowned for his collection of African American artifacts. However, the event took an unexpected turn when Epps fell ill on stage. Witnesses reported that she slumped in her chair shortly after the service began and was quickly attended to by medical professionals. Despite their efforts, Epps had to be carried out of the venue by a uniformed officer.
The Tragic Outcome
Epps was immediately rushed to Temple University Hospital, where medical staff worked tirelessly to save her life. However, the efforts proved futile, and she was pronounced dead at approximately 3:15 p.m. on that fateful Tuesday. The university, as well as the wider community, was left devastated by the loss of a remarkable leader and advocate for education.
Remembering JoAnne A. Epps
JoAnne A. Epps left an indelible mark on Temple University, having held various positions within the institution throughout her career. She began her journey at the university's bookstore over 40 years ago and steadily rose through the ranks, eventually becoming the dean of the law school and provost. Her dedication and vision for the university were evident to all who knew her.
A Compassionate Leader
Ken Kaiser, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Temple, spoke fondly of Epps, highlighting her compassionate nature and ability to bring people together. He described her as someone who genuinely cared about others and had a unique talent for making even the most daunting tasks enjoyable. Epps' infectious enthusiasm and love for Temple University made her a beloved figure among students, faculty, and staff.
A Period of Transition
Epps assumed the role of acting president in April, following the resignation of Jason Wingard, the university's first Black president. Wingard's departure came after a tumultuous tenure, marked by questions surrounding his leadership, hiring practices, and public safety concerns. Epps stepped in during a challenging time, vowing to address critical issues such as enrollment and campus safety.
Focusing on Enrollment and Safety
In an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Epps expressed her commitment to improving enrollment and safety at Temple University. The campus had experienced a decline in enrollment, with numbers dropping by 14% since 2019. Epps recognized the importance of creating a safe and welcoming environment for students and faculty, aiming to restore confidence in the institution.
A Plan for the Future
Temple University's Board of Trustees convened to address the transition following Epps' untimely passing. The board's primary objective was to create a comprehensive plan that would guide the university through this difficult period. Gregory Mandel, the university's provost, expressed deep grief over Epps' loss, emphasizing the strong bond they shared. The board's meeting would set the stage for the future of Temple University.
A Powerful Force and Constant Ambassador
Epps' impact extended beyond the university's walls. Governor Josh Shapiro acknowledged her as a powerful force and constant ambassador for Temple University throughout her nearly four-decade-long tenure. Her commitment to education and dedication to the university community earned her the respect and admiration of many.
The Legacy of JoAnne A. Epps
As the Temple University community mourns the loss of JoAnne A. Epps, her legacy will endure. Her contributions to the institution, her compassion, and her unwavering commitment to education will forever be remembered. Epps leaves behind a void that will be challenging to fill, but her spirit will continue to inspire generations of Temple University students and faculty.