In an unfortunate turn of events, Temple University’s acting president, JoAnne Epps, passed away at the age of 72. While attending a memorial service for historian Charles L. Blockson, Epps was taken to Temple University Hospital after falling ill, where she was later pronounced dead. The specific cause remains undisclosed, casting a shroud of sorrow and unanswered questions over the Temple community and beyond.
Who Was JoAnne Epps?
JoAnne Epps of Cheltenham, Pennsylvania was much more than an academic or administrative figure; she served as an example to many, particularly women of color in legal fields. Epps completed her undergraduate studies at Trinity College before enrolling at Yale Law School where she became one of a select few Black women classmates in her class.
Early Professional Milestones
After graduating Yale, Epps worked for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Robert B. Krupansky before enrolling at Temple Law School as an instructor in 1985 – by 1989 she had already assumed her current role of associate dean for academic affairs; eventually being promoted to dean by 2008.
Pioneering Change in Legal Education
During her tenure as dean, Epps oversaw numerous improvements in the law school’s programs and was lauded as a national authority on legal education and diversity. She modernized curricula, developed outreach programs, and made concerted efforts to improve diversity among both faculty and students.
A Multifaceted Role as Executive Vice President and Provost
In 2016, Epps ascended to the role of executive vice president and provost at Temple University. In this position, she was instrumental in shaping the university’s strategic vision, ensuring the smooth daily operations of the institution, and championing initiatives that focused on student success and academic excellence.
The Brief Yet Impactful Tenure as Acting President
Appointed as acting president of Temple University in April 2023, following the resignation of President Jason Wingard, Epps served the community with the same dedication and vigor until her untimely passing in September 2023.
A Passionate Advocate for Social Justice
Epps was deeply committed to issues of social justice and equity, being an active member of several organizations dedicated to these principles, such as the American Bar Association and Committee of Seventy.
A Legacy That Resonates
The life and achievements of JoAnne Epps resonate with countless people, especially those she mentored or inspired along her storied journey. Epps’ passing has left a void that will be keenly felt, but her legacy will continue to inspire new generations.
A Community Pauses to Reflect and Honor
Temple University will hold a memorial vigil in her honor at its bell tower, while also convening its Board of Trustees meeting to consider next steps for leadership at the university. However, at present it remains our priority to pay our respects to someone whose contributions to both Temple and its greater community cannot be overstated.
JoAnne Epps’ sudden demise is an irreparable loss and many questions still remain open, yet one thing remains apparent: Her impact was undeniable upon those she touched as well as institutions she served; it will continue to inspire countless individuals working within law, education and social justice fields for years to come. Her legacy will live on and will likely inspire many individuals for years.