On Tuesday, the acting president of Temple University in Philadelphia died unexpectedly after collapsing on stage during a campus event.
Seventy-two-year-old JoAnne A. Epps was attending a memorial service for Charles L. Blockson, the curator of the Blockson Collection, when she suddenly became ill. The school announced that she was taken to Temple University Hospital, but was later pronounced dead.
“There are no words that can describe the gravity and sadness of this loss,” a university statement states. “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 cause of death has not been shared by university officials, but many mourn the Epps’ passing, including Temple University Provost Gregory Mandel, who choked up as he described the late president.
“We are all in deep grief and at a loss for words. To know Joanne is to be her friend,” Mandel said at the news conference. “She was one of the most remarkably compassionate and caring individuals I’ve ever known.”
Epps was the former dean of the university’s law school and provost. In April, she was named acting president of the university following the resignation of Jason Wingard, Temple’s first black president.
“I would never have imagined even becoming a professor at Temple, let alone being in this position,” Epps recently told local outlet Fox 29.
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro described Epps as a “powerful force and constant ambassador for Temple University for nearly four decades.”
“Losing her is heartbreaking for Philadelphia. Lori and I are holding JoAnne’s loved ones in our hearts right now. May her memory be a blessing,” he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
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