PHILADELPHIA — JoAnne Epps, the acting president of Temple University, died Tuesday after collapsing onstage during a university event, the school said. She was 72.
Epps was scheduled to speak at an event in memory of author-historian Charles L. Blockson, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. She fell while waiting her turn to speak, said Mitchell L. Morgan, chair of the board of trustees.
Epps slumped in her chair and was carried out in the arms of a uniformed officer, the Inquirer reported. She was pronounced dead at about 3:15 p.m. EDT.
“I am devastated by this loss,” Morgan told the newspaper. “She was our light at the end of the tunnel. Temple University will survive it. I’m not sure I will emotionally survive it.”
Epps taught at Temple for more than 30 years and was the senior advisor to the university president, WCAU-TV reported. She was also dean of Temple’s law school from July 2008 until being appointed executive vice president and provost of the university in 2016, according to the television station.
She was named Temple’s acting president in April after the resignation one month earlier of Jason Wingard, the university’s first Black president, The Associated Press reported.
“JoAnne Epps was a powerful force and constant ambassador for Temple University for nearly four decades. Losing her is heartbreaking for Philadelphia,” Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Lori and I are holding JoAnne’s loved ones in our hearts right now. May her memory be a blessing.”
Epps also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia and Deputy City Attorney in Los Angeles, according to WCAU.
The native of Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, was awarded a 2015 Spirit of Excellence Award by the American Bar Association, the 2015 M. Ashley Dickerson Award by the National Association of Women Lawyers, and the 2014 Justice Sonia Sotomayor Diversity Award by the Philadelphia Bar Association, the television station reported.
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