JoAnne A. Epps, acting president of Temple University in Philadelphia, died Tuesday shortly after becoming ill on stage during a memorial service.
The Associated Press reports that Epps was attending a memorial service at the university for Charles L. Blockson, a curator of a collection of African American artifacts, when she suffered what a doctor described as a “sudden episode.”
Epps, who was scheduled to speak at the service, slumped in her chair shortly after the event began and was carried out in the arms of a uniformed officer after the announcer asked if there was a doctor in the house.
Ken Kaiser, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Temple, called Epps' death a “gut punch for all of us right now.”
Kaiser said he had known Epps for three decades.
“JoAnne was full of life, somebody who was super compassionate and truly cared about other people and had a wonderful way of pulling them all together and getting people excited about even a daunting task, making things fun,” he said.
Epps, Temple’s former law school dean and provost, was named acting president in April following the resignation of Jason Wingard.
Kaiser said Epps started out working at Temple’s bookstore 40 years ago and dedicated herself to improving the university.
In an interview in April with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Epps vowed to focus on improving enrollment and safety, which had been hit by spiraling crime near the north Philadelphia campus during her predecessor’s tenure. Epps said she believed she was selected in part for her “ability to sort of calm waters.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro called her loss “heartbreaking for Philadelphia, saying she had been “a powerful force and constant ambassador for Temple University for nearly four decades.”
From Temple University: Vigil for JoAnne A. Epps: