Temple's acting president JoAnne Epps dies suddenly after falling ill at university event

Temple University's acting president JoAnne Epps died suddenly Tuesday after collapsing at a university event. She was 72 years old. Photo courtesy of Temple University

Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Temple University's acting president JoAnne Epps died unexpectedly Tuesday after collapsing on stage at a university event, as officials called her loss a "gut punch." Epps was 72 years old.

The university said Epps became ill Tuesday during a memorial service at Temple for Charles Blockson, a curator of the Blockson Collection. She was taken to Temple University Hospital for treatment and was pronounced dead at 3:15 p.m., the university said.

"It is with deep heartbreak that we write to inform you that Temple University Acting President JoAnne A. Epps suddenly passed away this afternoon," the university wrote Tuesday in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

While the university did not disclose a cause for Epps' death, a doctor at the hospital in Philadelphia said she suffered a "sudden episode" and could not be revived.

"It sounds like President Epps suffered a sudden episode during the event, was promptly attended to by emergency medical services, was transported here to Temple Hospital where resuscitation efforts continued but unfortunately were unsuccessful," Dr. Daniel del Portal at Temple University Hospital told reporters.

"There are no words that can describe the gravity and sadness of this loss. President Epps was a devoted servant and friend who represented the best parts of Temple. She spent nearly 40 years of her life serving this university, and it goes without saying her loss will reverberate through the community for years to come," the university said in a statement Tuesday.

During her time at Temple, Epps served as the dean of Temple Beasley School of Law between 2008 and 2016. She became the university's executive vice president and provost in 2016 before stepping in as acting president in April.

Condolences poured in over social media Tuesday following her death, including from the governor of Pennsylvania.

"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 wrote in a post on X.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney wrote: "Heartbroken by the sudden passing of Temple University's acting President JoAnne A. Epps. She was a passionate and steadfast leader who inspired many. I feel fortunate to have known her."

"My heart is with the Temple community and JoAnne's family and loved ones," he said.

As Temple's Board of Trustees plans to meet Wednesday to determine how the university will move forward without her. A vigil will be held in Epps' honor.

"We invite the entire Temple community to join us at the Bell Tower at noon tomorrow, Wednesday, Sept. 20, for a special vigil in President Epps' honor," the university wrote in a post. "This will be a time to reflect, remember and support one another during this time of grieving."