Temple University Acting President JoAnne A. Epps has died at the age of 72 after collapsing on stage during an event Tuesday afternoon.
Epps was transported to Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, where she was pronounced dead around 3:15 p.m., the university said.
She was participating in a memorial service for Charles L. Blockson, the curator emeritus of the Charles L. Blockson African-American Collection at the university, when she suddenly collapsed onstage.
A uniformed police officer carried her from the stage and the ceremony was temporarily suspended.
Temple University Acting President JoAnne A. Epps has died at the age of 72 after collapsing on stage during an event Tuesday afternoon
Epps was participating in a memorial service at Temple University (pictured) when she suddenly collapsed while on stage
Her death was confirmed by the university in a statement that said, “It is with deep sadness that we write to inform you that Temple University Acting President JoAnne A. Epps passed away suddenly this afternoon.”
“There are no words that can describe the gravity and sadness of this loss,” Mitchell Morgan, Temple’s chairman, said in the statement.
“President Epps was a devoted servant and friend who represented the best parts of Temple.
“She served this university for nearly forty years of her life, and it goes without saying that her loss will reverberate through the community for years to come.”
Ken Kaiser, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Temple, declined to speculate about Epps’ health prior to her collapse.
“We are not aware that President Epps has had any health problems,” Kaiser said at a news conference.
Temple University Provost Gregory Mandel choked up as he described Epps.
‘We are all deeply saddened and at a loss for words. To know Joanne is to be her friend,” Mandel said at the press conference.
“She was one of the most remarkably compassionate and caring individuals I have ever known.”
Mandel said the university’s Board of Trustees would meet tomorrow to “lay out a plan for us as we work through this transition.”
Epps spoke at a memorial event for Blockson, who died on June 14 at the age of 89 before collapsing.
The event was temporarily suspended when she collapsed, but resumed with Kimmika Williams Witherspoon, a former faculty senate president, stepping in to read Epps’ remarks.
Epps, Temple’s former dean and provost, was appointed to the post in April following the resignation of Jason Wingard, who resigned in March after leading the 33,600-student university since July 2021.
Wingard, the university’s first black president, resigned after less than two years in charge following a wave of violence that hit the campus.
Epps’ tenure began after 31-year-old Temple University officer Christopher Fitzgerald was shot dead in February after chasing three people wearing black and wearing masks in an area that had seen a wave of robberies.
She was transported to Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, where she was pronounced dead around 3:15 p.m., the university said
Temple University Provost Gregory Mandel choked up as he described Epps. ‘We are all deeply saddened and at a loss for words. To know Joanne is to be her friend,” he said at a news conference
Temple University Police Officer Christopher Fitzgerald, 31, was shot Saturday evening, allegedly by 18-year-old Miles Pfeffer, 18, who was indicted on a slew of charges
Kaiser said Epps started working at Temple’s bookstore 40 years ago and dedicated himself to improving the university.
Epps pledged to focus on enrollment and safety because of rising crime near the north Philadelphia campus and other issues during her predecessor’s tumultuous tenure.
She told The Philadelphia Inquirer, which reported that enrollment was down 14 percent since 2019, that she believed she was selected in part because of her “ability to get into calm waters.”
“I am obviously humbled and excited and very much looking forward to being able to contribute to the university that I love so much,” Epps told the newspaper. She said she would not be a candidate for the permanent position.
The Temple Association of University Professionals union remembered Epps’ personal approach.
“I remember her coming into my office in April and talking with me one-on-one about how we could work together to make Temple a better place,” union President Jeffrey Doshna said in a statement.
Governor Josh Shapiro described Epps as “a powerful force and constant ambassador for Temple University for nearly four decades.”
“Losing her is heartbreaking for Philadelphia,” Shapiro said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Lori and I are holding JoAnne’s loved ones in our hearts at this time. May her memory be a blessing.”
Kaiser recalled leaving the office when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and Temple closed.
“It was our last day at the office, we were together and I said, ‘Okay, I’ll see you in a few weeks,’ and I haven’t really seen her for two years,” Kaiser said.
He later told her that if he had known they wouldn’t see each other for two years, he would have given her a hug.
Bill Cosby, who has been accused by at least 60 women of a slew of sex crimes — all of which he denies — was a trustee at Temple University from 1982 to 2014.