Remembering JoAnne Epps

The Editorial Board offers condolences to Acting President JoAnne Epps’ family and the Temple community and reflects on her impact at the university.

JoAnne Epps

The Editorial Board expresses our condolences to Temple Acting President JoAnne Epps’ family and to the university community following her sudden passing at 72. 

Her death marks an unprecedented time of grief for all members of the Temple community.

Epps devoted decades to leading the university as a professor, dean, provost and acting president. She was the first Black woman to serve in a presidential role at Temple, The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported.

Epps’ impact will resonate for years to come, and the Editorial Board reflects on her numerous contributions to the university.

Epps’ long history with Temple dates back more than 50 years. A Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, native, her first job was as a cashier at the bookstore in the Howard Gittis Student Center when she was 16. Additionally, her mother previously served as a secretary for the university. 

She returned to Temple in 1985 when she joined the faculty at the Beasley School of Law. Three decades later, Epps was appointed dean from 2008-16. 

In her last year as dean, she was named in National Jurist magazine’s list of the “Top 25 Most Influential People in Legal Education” for the fourth consecutive year and awarded the 2016 Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession.

Epps was also the chair of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Oversight Board from 2015-17.

Although Epps was considering retirement, she agreed to serve until the next president was chosen and spent the last few months as acting president focusing on enrollment and safety, two of the main issues facing the university. The Board of Trustees unanimously voted to name Epps acting president following the resignation of former President Jason Wingard in April. 

University leaders were confident in Epps’ ability to unite the Temple community following concerns about safety, the administration’s handling of the TUGSA strike, university finances and other issues.

The Editorial Board commends Epps for taking up the role of acting president amid significant criticism of the university and boosting community morale.

There will be a vigil honoring Epps’ life and memory Wednesday at noon at the Bell Tower. The Editorial Board encourages all members of the Temple community to commemorate Epps’ legacy at the memorial.

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