When JoAnne Epps was 16, she got her first job at the bookstore in the Student Center as a cashier.
“I loved that job,” said Epps, who is Temple’s provost and executive vice president. “I’ve always had Temple in my blood.”
On Thursday, Temple University’s Black Public Relations Society hosted Epps in the atrium of Annenberg Hall to talk about her career path and accomplishments.
Around 60 people were at the event, which was mediated by David Brown, TUBPR’s faculty adviser and a strategic communication professor.
“Being able to have this conversation within this setting, especially given the times in which we live, I’m truly proud to be here at Temple where we celebrate the diversity of students … the diversity of our curriculum and … the diversity of who we are,” Brown said to the audience.
Epps, a native of Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, was the first person in her family to go to college and graduated from Yale Law School in 1976.
She began working on the West Coast after graduation but said she quickly realized Philadelphia was where she belonged and moved back. She served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the city and was honored with multiple awards.
The magazine “The National Jurist” named her as one of the 25 most influential people in legal education, and she received the 2015 Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association. She was also honored three times as one of the 100 most influential Black lawyers in the country by the Lawyers of Color Magazine.
Epps became the provost in July after an eight-year stint as the dean of Temple’s Beasley School of Law.
“I think of this university and this campus as my home, but its place in this city is also my home,” Epps said. “I’m immensely proud of what this university means to the city of Philadelphia. I just can’t imagine a better place to come to work.”
Asha Wescott, the president of TUBPRS, said she was proud to have Epps, a role model for Black women, at the event.
“This is true history in the making right in front of our eyes,” said Wescott, a junior strategic communications major. “We are witnessing the first Black woman provost ever in Temple’s history. Temple is lucky to have her.”
As provost and executive vice president, Epps supervises the deans of all the schools and students. At the event, she encouraged students to take advantage of the opportunities in the city. She encouraged them to research Philadelphia-based organizations that they would want to volunteer for in the summer in order to build up their resume.
School of Media Communication Dean David Boardman said he considers Epps a friend, a boss and a role model. He added that she was a “key part” of his decision to come to Temple.
“She was the dean of the law school and I thought, ‘Wow, this is the kind of person I wanted to work with,’” Boardman said. “In the few short months as provost, she’s having a profound impact here. … She’s leading us Temple administrators to look at how we do things, why we do them and she always, in every conversation, brings it back to the students.”
Taylor Horn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.