Acting Temple University President JoAnne Epps(Philadelphia Tribune photo).
(This story was updated at 5:25 p.m. on Tuesday, April 11, 2023 to include new reporting)
PHILADELPHIA — Former Temple Law School Dean JoAnne Epps has been named Temple University’s acting president, the state-related school announced Tuesday.
Mitchell Morgan, the chairperson of Temple’s Board of Trustees, made the announcement in an email sent out shortly after 5 p.m.
“There is no one more qualified than JoAnne Epps to lead us through this critical moment in our history, and we are grateful she has accepted this responsibility,” Morgan wrote. “We look to her for guidance and thoughtful leadership as we continue to focus on developing and implementing solutions to some of our key challenges.
Epps, 71, replaces Temple’s former president Jason Wingard, who resigned on March 31.
Epps served as Temple’s school dean from July 2008 until her appointment as executive vice president and provost of Temple University in July 2016.
She left Temple as part of a senior management shakeup by Wingard in 2021.
Wingard, 51, was appointed to lead the 33,600-student university in July 2021 and was the school’s first African-American president.
He got the top spot after a 10-month nationwide search.
But Wingard’s tenure was rocky. He resigned after a six-week strike by The Temple University Graduate Students Association and the shooting death of Temple Police Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald in February. Fitzgerald, 31, was the first line-of-duty death in the history of the campus police department.
The university is also dealing with public safety concerns on campus, the ongoing gun violence in the city, dropping enrollment and financial issues.
Epps taught law at Temple for more than 30 years. Before that she was an assistant U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia and Deputy City Attorney in Los Angeles.
According to her Temple University biography, “Epps was an outspoken advocate for legal education that emphasized institutional responsiveness over a one-size-fits-all curricular model … Her commitment to curricular innovation and experiential legal education garnered Temple significant praise, in particular for its innovative first-year experiential courses and nationally recognized clinical opportunities. It also inspired the creation of the Stephen and Sandra Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple Law School.”
Epps has held leadership roles in the American Bar Association, the National Association of Women Lawyers and the American Law Institute affiliate, ALI-ABA. She was given a 2015 Spirit of Excellence Award by the American Bar Association, the 2015 M. Ashley Dickerson Award by the National Association of Women Lawyers, and the 2014 Justice Sonia Sotomayor Diversity Award by the Philadelphia Bar Association.
Epps is a three-time honoree by Lawyers of Color Magazine as one of the 100 most influential Black lawyers in the country. In 2009, the Philadelphia Bar Association gave her the Sandra Day O’Connor Award, given to “a woman attorney who has demonstrated superior legal talent, achieved significant legal accomplishments and has furthered the advancement of women in both the profession and the community.”
She was the first chair of Philadelphia’s Police Oversight Board from 2015 to 2017. The panel was formed in response to a Justice Department report about Philadelphia police shootings.
Epps was also appointed by the U.S. District Court from 2011 to 2019 to monitor the city’s compliance with litigation that challenged the controversial stop-and-frisk policies.
She has taught advocacy law around the world in Arusha, Tanzania; Beijing, China; Japan and Darfur, Sudan.
Epps is a Cheltenham native who received her bachelor’s degree from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1973 and her law degree from Yale in 1976.
This story first appeared in the Philadelphia Tribune, a publishing partner of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.
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