temple university acting president

The Acting President of Temple University Passes Away Following Onstage Illness

JoAnne A. Epps, who assumed her role in April, was swiftly transported to a hospital following her sudden illness during a memorial service held on the campus of the university in Philadelphia.

Amidst a period of tumult for Philadelphia’s Temple University, JoAnne A. Epps, the interim president, passed away during a poignant memorial service, leaving an indelible void in the institution’s leadership.

Ms. Epps, who assumed office in April, fell seriously ill during the memorial service and was subsequently rushed to the hospital, where she was declared deceased at approximately 3:15 p.m. She was 72 years old.

The university expressed its profound sorrow over losing President Epps in a heartfelt letter that the chair of the board of trustees, the chief operating officer, and the provost all signed. They referred to her as a dedicated servant and cherished friend who personified the best qualities of Temple.

The Temple University refrained from disclosing the specific cause of her demise.

The tragic incident occurred while Ms Epps attended a memorial service in honour of Charles L. Blockson, a distinguished historian, author, and curator of the Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple. This collection boasts over 500,000 artifacts chronicling the global Black experience. Mr. Blockson passed away at the age of 89 in June.

Live footage from the memorial service, later removed from Temple’s website, captured a choir performing behind a row of chairs arranged on the stage. Ms. Epps, clutching papers on her lap, appeared to falter in her chair, causing her documents to cascade to the floor. Observing her distress, individuals seated nearby sought assistance, and a plea for a doctor echoed from the pulpit. The live feed momentarily went offline before resuming the memorial service.

Governor Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania, expressing his grief on X (formerly Twitter), described Ms. Epps as an influential advocate for Temple University and lamented the profound loss for the city of Philadelphia.

In his words, “Speaking at Temple’s commencement earlier this year, I reiterated my strong belief in the university and its North Philadelphia community. They are resilient and unwavering, and I am confident they will unite and support each other during this devastating time.”

Mitchell L. Morgan, the chair of Temple’s board of trustees, shared with The Philadelphia Inquirer that Ms. Epps was seen as the guiding light amidst the university’s challenges.

Ms. Epps had been a member of Temple’s faculty for over three decades, having previously served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia and a deputy city attorney in Los Angeles before joining Temple.

Her untimely demise rattled a university already grappling with numerous issues. She assumed office following the resignation of the former president, Jason Wingard, in March. Mr. Wingard’s tenure was marred by increasing crime around campus, a graduate student strike, and diminishing confidence in his leadership among faculty members.

After Mr. Wingard’s departure, Temple yearned for stable leadership, and Ms. Epps was viewed as a unifying figure who could navigate the troubled waters. Her deep-rooted connections to Temple offered reassurance to many within the institution. Upon her appointment, she articulated her commitment to engaging with various university stakeholders to reinvigorate a culture of shared governance, attentive listening, and continuous learning.

Ms. Epps, a former executive vice president, provost, and dean of the law school at Temple, made it clear that her tenure would be transient. She affirmed to The Inquirer that she had no intention of pursuing the position on a permanent basis.

She remarked, “The Temple University requires a president who is expected to serve for an extended period,” noting that her original plan was to retire in the same year before being asked to step into the role of interim president.

In interviews with local media, Ms. Epps underscored her priorities, focusing on addressing Temple’s dual challenges: ensuring campus safety and reversing the trend of declining enrollment, an issue confronting many other institutions of higher education.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Temple Association of University Professionals conveyed its profound grief on X, stating that its members were deeply saddened by the loss of “a genuine Temple icon.”

In a statement, the student government association at Temple acknowledged Ms. Epps for her significant contributions to the university, highlighting her unwavering commitment to prioritizing the desires and needs of students.

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