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September 19, 2023

JoAnne A. Epps, Temple's acting president, dies after suffering 'sudden episode' during campus event

Epps, 72, was attending a memorial service for Charles L. Blockson when she fell ill and was transported to Temple University Hospital

Obituaries Temple University
Joanne Epps Temple Source/Temple University

JoAnne A. Epps, acting president of Temple University, died Tuesday after falling ill while attending a memorial service on campus for Charles L. Blockson, the curator of one of the most prestigious collections of African American artifacts in the United States.

Temple University's acting president JoAnne A. Epps died suddenly Tuesday afternoon after falling ill at a campus event.

Epps, 72, was attending a memorial service for Charles L. Blockson — the curator of one of the most prestigious collections of African American artifacts in the U.S. — when she suffered a "sudden episode,"  Dr. Daniel del Portal, a Temple Health emergency physician, said during a press conference Tuesday.

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She was attended to by emergency medical services before being transported to Temple University Hospital, where resuscitation efforts continued but were unsuccessful, del Portal said. Epps was pronounced dead around 3:15 p.m., according to a statement from the university.

"We are all in deep grief and at a loss for words," Temple provost Gregory Mandel said. "We grieve for JoAnne's family and her friends and our Temple community ... This is a tragic loss. But we know that JoAnne passed away doing something that she loved with her family and friends and our Temple community. President Epps represented the best part of the Temple community, devoting nearly 40 years of her life to serving us ... in many different capacities. We will all get through this."

Earlier this year, Epps took over as Temple's acting president following the resignation of Jason Wingard. An emergency meeting will be held Wednesday to determine the university's next steps, officials said.

Epps, who graduated from Yale Law School in 1976, taught in Temple's Beasley School of Law for more than three decades. She also acted as dean of the law school from 2008 through her appointment to executive vice president and provost of Temple University in 2016. 

She served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia and deputy city attorney in Los Angeles and was recognized nationally for her contributions to legal education. She earned the American Bar Association's 2015 Spirit of Excellence Award, the Philadelphia Bar Association's 2009 Sandra Day O’Connor Award and was recognized multiple times by Lawyers of Color Magazine as one of the 100 most influential Black lawyers in the country.

Epps was originally from Cheltenham, Montgomery County, and most recently was living with her husband in New Jersey.

"Joanne embodied everything that is great about Temple University, rising from working in the bookstore more than 40 years ago to the office of the president," Ken Kaiser, Temple's senior vice president and chief operating officer, said. "No one was more beloved at our university than JoAnne was. She was a personal friend and mentor to so many of us and she pushed each of us to be the best versions of ourselves that we possibly could be. We will heal and honor JoAnne's memory, but I can tell you that will take some time." 

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