Acting president of Temple University in Philadelphia dies unexpectedly at 72

(Reuters) – The acting president of Temple University in Philadelphia, JoAnne Epps, fell ill on Tuesday while attending a memorial service on campus and died a short time later, the school said in a statement. She was 72.

No cause of death was given. Local news media reported Epps collapsed on stage during the campus event, which university officials described as a memorial tribute to the late Charles Blockson, curator of a prestigious collection of African-American artifacts at Temple.

Epps appeared to have “suffered a sudden episode” and was “promptly attended to by emergency medical” personnel at the scene, Dr. Daniel del Portal, chief clinical officer for the Temple University Health System, told an afternoon news conference.

She was then taken to Temple Hospital, “where resuscitation efforts continued but were unfortunately unsuccessful,” del Portal said. She was pronounced dead at 3:15 p.m. EDT.

Epps, a longtime academic, administrator and former prosecutor, was named to Temple’s top post on a provisional basis in April by the university’s Board of Trustees following the resignation of then-President Jason Wingard in a shakeup over campus safety and enrollment problems.

Her 30-plus years on Temple’s faculty included more than 15 years in leadership positions at the 135-year-old institution, including dean of the university’s law school, executive vice president and provost and chief academic officer.

“Temple has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember,” Epps said in a statement when she was appointed acting president in April. She recalled then that her mother worked as a secretary at the university for more than four decades and that her first job as a teenager was in the campus bookstore.

Temple, whose enrollment consists of some 37,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students, is a public state-related research university that also ranks among the world’s leading academic institutions in the training of professional educators.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Michael Perry)