Acting Temple University President JoAnne Epps died Tuesday after suddenly falling ill at a university event.
Epps fell ill during a memorial service for Charles Blockson, the curator emeritus of the Blockson Afro-American Collection, before being transported to the Temple University Hospital. Her cause of death is unknown at the time of publication.
Epps was scheduled to speak at the event before she "was carried out in the arms of a uniformed officer," The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Chair of the Board of Trustees Mitchell Morgan, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Ken Kaiser, and Senior Vice President and Provost Gregory Mandel informed the Temple community in an announcement.
"There are no words that can describe the gravity and sadness of this loss. President Epps was a devoted servant and friend who represented the best parts of Temple. She spent nearly 40 years of her life serving this university, and it goes without saying her loss will reverberate through the community for years to come," the announcement wrote.
Epps — who formerly served as the Temple Law School dean and provost — was named the university's acting president earlier this year on April 11. She replaced 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.
Wingard stepped down following a controversial tenure including 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.
Epps, who has spent nearly 40 years at Temple, was planning to retire this year before she was asked to serve as acting president.
In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter,Penn Carey Law professor Dorothy Roberts wrote that she was "stunned & heartbroken" at the news that her "remarkable Philly colleague" had died. David Hoffman, another Penn Carey Law professor, wrote on X that Epps had left Temple "immeasurably better than she found it" over her decades of service to the university.
Morgan told the Inquirer that an emergency meeting would be held on Wednesday to determine the future of the university.
Epps planned to serve as president through the 2023 fall semester, possibly until next summer. Temple recently began a search for a new president, and Epps said she would not be a candidate for that role.