Temple University law school Dean JoAnne A. Epps, one of the nation’s leaders in legal education, was confirmed as the institution’s new executive vice president and provost by its Board of Trustees July 12.

JoAnne A Epps Twitter

Dean JoAnne A. Epps

Epps, a member of the Temple faculty for more than 30 years and dean of Temple University Beasley School of Law since 2008, was nominated to the post by President Neil D. Theobald earlier this month.

“JoAnne’s impeccable record in teaching, student success, diversity and social justice, coupled with her longstanding commitment to Temple and the City of Philadelphia, makes her ideally suited for this important leadership role,” said President Theobald in a statement. 

“JoAnne is a proven innovator, collaborator, and cultivator of robust partnerships in North Philadelphia and worldwide,” he added. “She has earned national honors as an advocate for diversity and social justice. Her qualifications would impress anyone, but it is her character that truly sets JoAnne apart.”

A native of Cheltenham, Pa., Epps earned her bachelor’s degree from Trinity College and her juris doctor from Yale Law School. Prior to joining the Temple Law faculty in 1985, Epps was assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and deputy city attorney for Los Angeles.

Under her leadership, Temple’s law school gained increased stature in national rankings,  moving into the U.S. News & World Report Top 50, and expanded its curriculum.  Epps spearheaded the establishment of the Stephen and Sandra Sheller Center for Social Justice and launched the Temple Law Center for Compliance and Ethics, which prepares professionals and students for success in the fast-growing corporate compliance industry.

“I greatly appreciate this nomination as provost, which offers the opportunity to continue Temple’s remarkable momentum while also staying true to its historic mission,” Epps said at the time of her nomination. “I would be honored to serve as provost and committed to elevating the university even higher.”

Epps’ nomination and approval as the university’s chief academic officer while broadly approved was mired in controversy—though she, herself, was not at the center.

Her new position opened up when the previous provost Hai-Lung Dai was removed on June 28, following the discovery of a $22 million deficit in the university’s financial aid budget.  The Board of Trustees, however, believe President Theobald was ultimately responsible for the shortfall and issued a vote of “no confidence” in his leadership.

“After providing an opportunity for President Theobald to resign his position, which he refused, the Board concluded that it is compelled to proceed with Dr. Theobald’s removal as President… and the Board will seek Dr. Theobald’s dismissal at a meeting scheduled for Thursday, July 21,” stated Patrick J. O’Connor, chair of the board, in a letter to the campus community.

O’Connor said they plan to appoint Chancellor Richard M. Englert as acting president upon Theobald’s anticipated removal.

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO