Tragedy struck Temple University in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, today as Acting President JoAnne A. Epps, aged 72, passed away unexpectedly. The incident occurred during a memorial event dedicated to the renowned historian and author, Charles L. Blockson, the curator emeritus of the Blockson Afro-American Collection. As the university community grapples with this shocking loss, the void left by President Epps is immeasurable.
The event, which had gathered faculty, students, and distinguished guests, took a tragic turn when President Epps fell ill while preparing to deliver a speech. Mitchell L. Morgan, Chair of the Board of Trustees, expressed his deep sorrow, saying, “I am devastated by this loss. She was our light at the end of the tunnel. Temple University will survive it. I’m not sure I will emotionally survive it.”
JoAnne A. Epps assumed the role of Temple University’s leader earlier this year following the resignation of Jason Wingard. She was set to speak at the memorial service honoring Charles L. Blockson’s contributions to academia and African American heritage.
The ceremony came to an abrupt halt when President Epps slumped in her chair, prompting immediate concern from those in attendance. An announcer urgently called for a doctor, and President Epps was gently carried out of the venue by a uniformed officer. The solemn event eventually resumed, with Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, former faculty senate president, stepping in to read President Epps’ prepared remarks.
In an official statement, the University expressed its profound grief: “It is with deep heartbreak that we write to inform you that Temple University Acting President JoAnne A. Epps suddenly passed away this afternoon. 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 around 3:15 p.m.”
President Epps was a dedicated servant of Temple University for nearly four decades, joining the faculty in 1985. Her remarkable journey saw her rise to the position of law school dean in 2008 and later provost in 2016, a role she held until 2021. Her appointment as acting president was met with unanimous approval from the board in April, a testament to her exemplary service and leadership.
The University community now faces the difficult days ahead, mourning the loss of a beloved leader. President Epps’ impact on Temple University and its community will be felt for years to come. As the university comes to terms with this tragedy, they will look to one another for strength and support, honoring the memory of President Epps in the way she would have wanted.
A press conference is scheduled for 4:30 p.m., during which officials are expected to provide further details regarding this heartbreaking incident. The Temple University community and President Epps’ family remain in our thoughts during this challenging time.