JoAnne A. Epps, acting president of Temple University, died Tuesday after falling ill onstage during a university event, according to a statement from the school cited by CBS News.
The 72-year-old was scheduled to speak at an event in memory of Charles L. Blockson, a historian and author who curated the Blockson Afro-American Collection, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. Epps became the university’s acting leader earlier in 2023, after Jason Wingard resigned.
“I am devastated by this loss,” Temple Board of Trustees chair Mitchell Morgan said, according to the outlet. “She was our light at the end of the tunnel. Temple University will survive it. I’m not sure I will emotionally survive it.”
Epps was slumped over in her chair, and an officer subsequently carried her out of the event after the announcer asked if there was a doctor present, according to the Inquirer. Her exact cause of death is not yet public.
The ceremony was temporarily postponed. Former faculty senate president, Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, read Epps’ speech when the event resumed. (RELATED: Temple University Graduate Students Go On Strike, Demand ‘Living Wage’)
“She was transported to Temple University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead around 3:15 p.m.,” Temple University officials said in a statement, according to CBS News.
“President Epps served Temple with grace, dignity, and unwavering dedication,” the Temple University Police Association said on Twitter.
Our hearts are heavy as we extend our deepest condolences to the family, friends, and the Temple University community on the passing of President JoAnn Epps.
President Epps served Temple with grace, dignity, and unwavering dedication.
— Temple University Police Association (@officialTUPA) September 19, 2023
A meeting with the school’s board of trustees will be held Wednesday to decide what they will do moving forward, Morgan said, according to the Inquirer.
“We are not aware that President Epps had any health issues,” Ken Kaiser, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Temple, said in the news conference, per the Associated Press (AP).
Before becoming the acting president, Epps served as a faculty member in the university’s Beasley School of Law, senior advisor to the president, and as the executive vice president and provost from 2016-2021. She also served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia and deputy city attorney in Los Angeles, according to her bio on Temple University’s website.