Temple University interim president JoAnne Epps died suddenly Tuesday afternoon after falling ill during a university memorial service, the school said in a statement.
She was 72 years old.
“While attending a memorial service at Temple for Charles L. Blockson, curator of the Blockson Collection, President Epps became ill. She was transported to Temple University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at approximately 3:15 p.m.,” Philadelphia University said.
Epps appeared to have suffered a “sudden episode during the event,” Daniel del Portal of Temple University Health System said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
She was treated by emergency medical services personnel and transported to a hospital, where “resuscitation efforts continued but were unfortunately unsuccessful,” del Portal said.
Epps was named interim president in early April, shortly after the university announced the resignation of its former president, Jason Wingard, amid ongoing concerns about campus safety and declining enrollment.
By that time, Epps had been a faculty member at the university for more than three decades, including serving as dean of the university’s law school, executive vice president and dean, and academic director of Temple, the university said.
And it all started with a job at the school bookstore.
“JoAnne embodied everything that is great about Temple University, moving from her job in the bookstore more than 40 years ago to the president’s office,” said Ken Kaiser, senior vice president and chief academic officer. operations at Temple University, during Tuesday’s press conference.
Epps previously shared that her first job as a teenager was at the campus bookstore. She then joined the university’s faculty in 1985, she said.
“No one was more beloved at our university than JoAnne,” Kaiser said Tuesday. “She was a personal friend and mentor to many of us and she pushed each of us to be the best version of ourselves. »
Before joining the school’s faculty, Epps served as an assistant United States attorney from 1980 to 1985, according to Jacqueline C. Romero, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
“She was an icon in the legal community, devoting her life to public service, the rule of law, experiential legal education, equity and diversity in the profession, and the advancement of civil rights,” Romero said in a statement released Tuesday. “She was tireless and passionate about the issues she cared about. »
“On a personal note, JoAnne was a mentor and confidante,” she added. “Today, I mourn with countless women who have had the pleasure of benefiting from Joanne’s wise counsel, mentorship and guidance over the years. »
Upon accepting the position as interim president of Temple University earlier this year, Epps wrote about how much the university meant to her, sharing that her mother worked at the school as a secretary for 40 years.
“Temple has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember,” she wrote in a statement to the community in April.
“When you see me on campus, stop and say hello. One of my greatest pleasures is meeting and listening to Temple students, faculty, staff and alumni, hearing your stories and dreams for the future,” Epps wrote.
In a statement posted on social media Tuesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said Epps has been “a powerful force and consistent ambassador for Temple University for nearly four decades.”
“Losing her is heartbreaking for Philadelphia,” the governor said. “Lori and I hold JoAnne’s loved ones in our hearts right now. May his memory be a blessing.