Temple remembers the legacy of Theresa Powell

Powell’s colleagues shared fond memories of the vice president of student affairs.


Theresa Powell could be found riding around Main Campus on a cherry-red scooter, stopping to greet students and faculty as she rode through. 

Stephanie Ives, interim vice president of student affairs, remembers running behind Powell through campus as she rode, always knowing that she’d have a chance to stop and catch up once Powell ran into somebody she knew.

Powell, vice president of student affairs, passed away suddenly on Jan. 2 in her home state of Texas. Powell came to Temple in 2002 and was responsible for advancing the culture and the function of the Department of Student Affairs throughout her time at the university.

Powell was involved in developing many programs at Temple, including Weeks of Welcome, which aimed to help new students acclimate themselves to campus, and Temple’s Cherry Pantry, which supplies students facing food insecurity with food, solidifying her reputation as a student advocate.

“Every time a student is in need, either because of food insecurity, financial insecurity or emergency, you know, that is the moment in their life when there is a crisis point and if they are served by the Division of Student Affairs through one of those programs, then perhaps at that moment they think ‘I’m really glad that vice president was such a wonderful student advocate,’” Ives said.

Throughout her career, Powell was recognized as a leader in the field of student affairs. In 2003, Powell was the recipient of the John L. Blackburn Distinguished Pillar Award, the NASPA Foundation’s highest honor and in 2022, Powell was celebrated by Diverse Issues in Higher Education in a group of 25 leading women in higher education. 

Powell was the first Black woman elected president of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, an organization of student affairs administrators in higher education. 

She is remembered by those who knew her as a welcoming presence who always put people before business and would start every meeting off with a personal conversation. 

“She really wanted every interaction to start off with the person,” Ives said.

Within Temple’s Department of Student Affairs, Powell is credited with fostering a family-driven environment, which Michael Scales, associate vice president of business services, hopes that Powell is remembered by.

“Just her insistence that the Division of Student Affairs be a family environment, and she really modeled that, whether it was her opening breakfast where every staff member was invited and encouraged to come, to her end of the year staff functions,” Scales said. 

Amy Hecht, vice president of student affairs at Florida State University, worked with Powell for four years while Hecht was an assistant dean of students at Temple. She remembers Powell as someone who helped further her career.

“I remember one day telling her someday I wanted to come home to Florida, and I said I saw the dean of students at the University of Florida left and that would be a dream job for me and she said ‘I’ll make a call, I know the vice president there, I’ll make a call,’ and she’s done that for me many, many times, and then I realized she’s done that for hundreds of people,” Hecht said.  

By all accounts, Powell was a hugger and would greet all she knew with a warm embrace. 

“I have said more than once in the past two weeks that hugging was her love language, and everybody hugged her and she hugged everyone,” Ives said.

Temple will be hosting a celebration of life for Powell at the Temple Performing Arts Center on Jan. 31.

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