University of Temple President Dead After Collapsing on Stage

( – One minute, JoAnne Epps was sitting onstage at a memorial service for a prominent and respected member of the black community in Philadelphia. The next, she had collapsed and was rushed to a hospital where she eventually passed away.

Epps, 72, the acting president of Temple University in Philadelphia, was at a memorial service for Charles Blockson, a historian and author who curated the Blockson collection, which is comprised of several important African American artifacts.

According to university officials who held a press conference after the incident, Epps and suffered a “sudden episode.” She was set to speak and was seated onstage when she suddenly slumped down. She was carried off-stage by a uniformed officer and the announcer asked if there was a doctor among the audience. Epps also received treatment from EMS and was transported to Temple University Hospital, but was pronounced dead after failing to respond to several attempts to resuscitate her.

Epps was recently appointed acting president following the resignation of the university’s first Black president, Jason Wingard. Previously, she served as provost of the university and dean of its law school. She was fixture at Temple University for nearly four decades, but began working at the university’s bookstore at an early age. Her mother then worked at Temple as an administrative assistant. Her next job at the university was a law professor with a law degree from Yale’s prestigious law school. She began teaching there in 1994. Prior to that, she was an assistant U.S. attorney for the state, and also served as a Los Angeles deputy city attorney for a time.

University officials said that they were not aware that Epps had any health issues and refused to speculate about what caused her sudden episode. No cause of death has been announced as of press time. Her sudden death was described by many colleagues as a “gut punch.” The university’s board of trustees is set to meet to decide the institution’s next steps.

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