PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Temple University acting president JoAnne A. Epps has died after collapsing at a memorial service Tuesday afternoon, the university said.
Epps was transported to Temple University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead around 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, the university said. She was 72.
“There are no words that can describe the gravity and sadness of this loss,” board chairman Mitchell Morgan said in a statement. “President Epps was a devoted servant and friend who represented the best parts of Temple. She spent nearly 40 years of her life serving this university, and it goes without saying her loss will reverberate through the community for years to come.”
Epps, Temple’s former law school dean and provost, was named to the post in April following the resignation of Jason Wingard, Temple’s first Black president. Wingard resigned in March after leading the 33,600-student university since July 2021.
Epps had vowed to focus on enrollment and safety due to spiraling crime near the north Philadelphia campus and other issues during her predecessor’s tumultuous tenure. She told The Philadelphia Inquirer, which reported enrollment was down 14% since 2019, that she believed she was selected in part for her “ability to sort of calm waters.”
“I am obviously humbled and excited and really looking forward to being able to make a contribution to the university that I so love,” Epps told the newspaper. She said she would not be a candidate for the permanent position.
“JoAnne Epps was a powerful force and constant ambassador for Temple University for nearly four decades. Losing her is heartbreaking for Philadelphia,” Gov. Josh Shapiro said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Lori and I are holding JoAnne’s loved ones in our hearts right now. May her memory be a blessing.”