The acting president of Temple University in Philadelphia died suddenly Tuesday after becoming ill and collapsing on stage during a campus event, the school said.
JoAnne A. Epps, 72, was attending a memorial service for Charles L. Blockson, curator of the Blockson Collection, when she got sick. She was taken to Temple University Hospital where she was pronounced dead, the school said.
“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. Temple University Provost Gregory Mandel choked up as he described Epps.
“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. She was named acting president in April following the resignation of Jason Wingard, Temple’s first Black president, Fox Philadelphia reported.
“I would never have imagined even becoming a professor at Temple, let alone being in this position,” Epps recently told the news outlet.
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, formally known as Twitter.
As acting president, Epps focused on enrollment and the escalating crime levels near the university’s campus.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.