She will replace Jason Wingard, former Vice Dean of Executive Education at the Wharton School and 2000 Graduate School of Education Ph.D. graduate, who resigned from his position as president on March 28. Wingard stepped down after less than two years in the position. During his term, he saw a 42-day graduate student worker strike, the fatal shooting of an on-duty Temple police sergeant, and a 14% decrease in enrollment since 2019.
Wingard announced his resignation in late March after a vote of no-confidence by Temple’s faculty union. According to Mitchell Morgan, chair of Temple’s Board of Trustees, a group of senior administrators has led the University since Wingard’s resignation.
Epps, who has spent nearly 40 years at Temple, was planning to retire this year before the board asked her to serve as acting president. Her connection to Temple began in her childhood when both she and her mother worked for the University.
“There is no one more qualified than JoAnne to assume this role. I am confident she will be a strong leader as we face key challenges. She also will be able to unite the university community with a shared purpose and focus on our mission,” Morgan told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
During her time at Temple, Epps served as law school dean and provost. Her appointment to provost also occurred during a time of crisis when former provost Hai-Lung Dai was removed from his position in 2016.
Epps plans to serve as president through the 2023 fall semester, possibly until next summer. She will not be a candidate for the permanent position. The University plans on launching a national search for a new president within the next few weeks.
“I am mindful I am going to be doing this on temporary basis so I am mindful of being respectful ... kind of a like a physician. First, do no harm. But I also have been given the ability to keep Temple moving forward as opposed to keeping us in neutral. We’re not going to be in neutral,” Epps told the Inquirer.
During her time as president, Epps plans to prioritize enrollment and safety. She expects her familiarity with Temple will help her.
“Many of us who worked at Temple for years say we bleed cherry and white,” Epps told the Inquirer. “Temple is in our soul. It’s in our blood. It’s in our DNA. That doesn’t mean I will be successful as a president, but it does mean ... I get this institution in a way that I think will be really important.”