The Philadelphia academic community and beyond were struck by the shocking news of the sudden passing of JoAnne A. Epps, Temple University’s beloved Acting President. At the age of 72, Epps unexpectedly fell ill during a memorial service for Charles L. Blockson, leading to her untimely demise.
Decades of Service and Leadership
Dedication and loyalty are the words that come to mind when thinking about Epps’ near four-decade association with Temple University. Beginning her journey as a cashier at the campus bookstore, Epps climbed the ranks, eventually teaching law for over thirty years. Her commitment saw her take on leadership roles, including serving as the provost and dean of Temple’s law school.
Her earlier career boasted impressive stints as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia and a Deputy City Attorney in Los Angeles. Her passion for law wasn’t confined just to teaching. A staunch advocate for women and minorities in the legal field, Epps held significant roles in prominent organizations like the American Bar Association, the National Association of Women Lawyers, and the ALI-ABA affiliate of the American Law Institute.
An Unplanned Leadership Role
Despite planning for retirement, the call of duty saw Epps step into the role of Acting President after Jason Wingard’s resignation earlier this year. Jeffrey Doshna, president of the Temple Association of University Professionals, shed light on Epps’ immediate impact at the helm. She not only changed the dynamics of the campus environment but also dedicated herself to address critical issues like student enrollment and campus safety.
Tributes Pour In
Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro recognized Epps as a “powerful force” who stood as a pillar for Temple University over her extensive tenure. “Losing her is heartbreaking for Philadelphia,” said Shapiro, extending his condolences to her family and loved ones.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney expressed his grief, highlighting Epps’ inspirational leadership and unwavering passion. His sentiments echo the collective feeling of loss felt by many who had the privilege of knowing and working with Epps.
A Void That’s Hard to Fill
Temple University, in their official statement, emphasized the depth of the tragedy. Epps, they noted, was not just a member of the academic community but a symbol of what Temple represented. As the university mourns, they seek solace in each other, aiming to move forward in a manner that would honor Epps’ legacy.
As the Temple community and Philadelphia at large grapple with this sudden loss, Epps’ memory serves as a reminder of her enduring contributions to academia, leadership, and social justice. Her life’s work will undoubtedly continue to inspire generations of students, educators, and leaders to come.