Acting President JoAnne A. Epps, 72, was attending a memorial for Charles L. Blockson, curator of the Blockson Collection, when she became ill, the Philadelphia school said. She was seated on stage while someone else was speaking when she suddenly slumped in her chair. Epps was taken to Temple University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead about 3:15 p.m., the school said.
“There are no words that can describe the gravity and sadness of this loss,” the university said in its 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.”
The school’s chief operating officer, Ken Kaiser, described Epps as a “calm force in troubled waters” and expressed that her passing was deeply felt.
Epps, a native of Cheltenham, a Philadelphia suburb, graduated from Yale Law School and dedicated her career to matters of justice and justice reform. She held various significant positions, including being a member of the Philadelphia police oversight board, leader of an independent group of public defenders in the city, assistant city attorney in Los Angeles, and assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia.
The board of trustees at the private institution in North Philadelphia plans to convene to establish a leadership plan. Gregory N. Mandel, Temple’s senior vice president and provost, emphasized the importance of unity in weathering this loss. A vigil was scheduled for noon Wednesday at Temple’s Bell Tower.