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"Very tragic": Vigil held after sudden passing of Temple University's acting president, JoAnne Epps

Vigil held for JoAnne Epps, Temple University's acting president
Vigil held for JoAnne Epps, Temple University's acting president 02:24

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Temple University community honored and remembered acting president JoAnne Epps on Wednesday.

Hundreds gathered at a vigil for Epps at the Bell Tower on campus. Mourners filed into the service to pay their respects to Epps, whose decades of service and legacy will be sure to live on.   

Epps' death has been heartbreaking for the Temple community as students, staff and alumni lean on each other for support.

"I don't know what we're gonna do," Mitchell Morgan, the chairman of Temple's Board of Trustees, said. "We are devastated by this." 

Temple's Board of Trustees also met to talk about the university's leadership.

Epps, 72, was a beloved leader at the university. She was a longtime fixture at Temple, spending decades at the law school. Epps was named acting president of the university in April, following the resignation of former president Jason Wingard.

She was on a stage for a memorial service at the Temple Performing Arts Center on Tuesday when she suffered a medical episode, which has not been disclosed.

"JoAnne Epps was small of stature, but she had broad shoulders and an even bigger heart," Richard Englert, a chancellor at Temple who previously served as president of the university, said.   


Friends, faculty and students remembered Epps as a mentor with a passion for people and said she treated everyone at the university as family.  

"Actually, TempleFest, she came up to our table and I met her then," said Shawn Kowalczyk, a junior at the university. "But other than that, she seemed really sweet and it seemed like she had a lot in store."

"When she said the Temple family, she meant it," Marylouise Esten, the deputy provost at Temple, said. "She loved this university and this family."  

But even as the shock of Epps' abrupt passing lingers on campus, Temple's board members said they have to look forward to see who will step in and fill the void at the top of the university.  

"Our goal is to have a permanent president this time next year, and the interim in a couple days or so," Morgan said.   

And the hunt had already been underway. 

Epps was only serving as acting president. Two weeks ago, Morgan announced online that Temple had officially launched the search process by hiring two outside firms and setting up a search advisory committee.

Leaders said Epps left a great blueprint for a leader of the university. 

"She has done her part, she's shown us the way, now all of us, we need to do that going forward," Englert said.  

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro on Wednesday ordered all state flags in Philadelphia to fly at half-staff to honor Epps.

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