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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Some Thoughts on the Remarkable JoAnne Epps (Guest Post)

JoAnne Epps--former faculty member, law dean, provost, and acting president at Temple--died Tuesday. The following remembrance is by my FIU colleague Joelle Moreno. If you have and would like to share remembrances or experiences with Prof. Epps, feel free to email them to me; I am happy to post a collection.

JoAnne Epps is the reason I am a law professor.

We met 30 years ago this summer. I was a new(ish) DOJ prosecutor sent to Boulder, Colorado to hone my trial skills. I’m not sure what I expected from NITA Nationals, but teaching was not a priority at my law school, and it showed. After three years of boring, self-important, pedantic performances from my own faculty, I was wholly unprepared for JoAnne.

JoAnne was, and I choose this word carefully, unique. 

When she walked into the room, JoAnne scared the shit out of you. It wasn’t just her poise, charm, and easy sense of humor. JoAnne immediately sized us up, this room of blowhard junior litigators and proto trial lawyers seeking to prove ourselves at big firms or government offices. She saw our strengths and weaknesses and, as we rose in turn to make our opening statements and summations, each of us pretending that our egos were not on the line, JoAnne cut through the nonsense with inarguable truths and incisive criticism. I’d never seen anything like her, as sharp and useful as a knife but indelibly herself. Hard to imagine today in our academic reality of eggshells and Stepford faculty.

If you knew JoAnne or even if you just heard her speak, her passion was unforgettable. Whether she was in class, explaining exactly why your theme and theory of the cases would never fly, or lingering over a glass of wine to describe a San Diego NITA faculty all-nighter to Tijuana, where they arrived back in the U.S. just in time to start teaching the next day, she was exuberant. At a youthful 72, JoAnne’s enthusiasm, dedication, and brilliance never diminished. She was irrepressible a few years ago when we co-hosted a boot camp at FIU on teaching and presentation skills. JoAnne taught by example that truly excellent teaching requires perception, self-acceptance, and candor.

JoAnne was recently enticed out of a planned retirement by her deep commitment to Temple University which she served with such dexterity for so long. Her passing is a blow to her family, friends, school and to everyone lucky enough to have known her. I am grateful for her friendship and saddened by her loss.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 20, 2023 at 06:49 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink


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