Philadelphia remembers JoAnne Epps

The sudden untimely passing of Temple University acting president JoAnne E. Epps has brought together many of the region’s leaders in memory of her service and her contributions to the community.

Epps fell ill while attending a memorial service on campus and was immediately transported to Temple University Hospital. Epps, 72, could not be revived.

“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,” the university said in a statement. “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.”

While attending a service for Charles L. Blockson, a curator of African American artifacts, Epps suffered a “sudden episode.” according to doctors at a Temple Hospital news conference.

Epps served as the Temple University law school dean from 2008 to 2016, when she became the school’s executive vice president and provost. In April, Epps was named acting president at the university following the resignation of former president Jason Wingard.

Speaker of the Pennsylvania House Joanna McClinton demonstrated the reach Epps made statewide.

“Acting President JoAnne Epps dedicated decades of her professional life to the Temple University community — championing women and ‘people of color’ in the legal profession and inspiring a generation of leaders,” McClinton said. “Today’s news is a tragedy, she will be truly missed by the Temple community and beyond.”

Philadelphia House Delegation chairwoman, Rep. Morgan Cephas, spoke for the city’s Democratic House legislators.

“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the sudden death of JoAnne Epps,” Cephas said. “Epps was an incredible woman who had an immensurable impact in our city. Epps’ contributions and legacy in the field of education will be remembered and continue to influence many.”

Philadelphia House Delegation treasurer Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta has a more personal connection to Epps, but not a unique one.

“I met JoAnne Epps when I was a 17-year-old freshman at Temple University,” Kenyatta said. “Though our titles have changed over the years, one thing never did, and that was she was always a friend and a mentor. I am devastated for her husband and her family and the entire Temple community. The world is a missing one of its bright lights with the loss of JoAnne. I will miss her always.”

Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson said, “I am truly devastated to learn of the passing of acting Temple University President JoAnne A. Epps. Not only was Epps a trusted leader at Temple, but she was well respected throughout the entire Philadelphia region. She provided Temple with stability during a time of great transition and throughout her more than 30 years of service to the university. I am praying for her family, the entire Temple University community, and our city as we grieve this tragic loss.”

Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Marc J. Zucker reminded those touched by Epps life that her reach extended well beyond academia.

“The Philadelphia Bar Association is profoundly shocked and saddened at the sudden loss of Acting President Epps, a beloved member of our Association. From a professional and personal point of view, this is a terrible loss.”

Upon Epps’ passing, Gov. Josh Shapiro ordered, “Commonwealth flags on all Commonwealth facilities, public buildings, and grounds in Philadelphia County to immediately fly at half-staff in honor of Temple University’s Acting President JoAnne A. Epps, who passed away suddenly on September 19, 2023.” The tribute was to continue until Epps’ interment.