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Temple taps Richard M. Englert to serve as temporary president

Englert had served at Temple for 45 years in 17 different roles before retiring in 2021, though he maintained the title of chancellor. He was twice acting president and president for five years.

Long-time Temple employee and former president Richard M. Englert was named president again on Tuesday by the board of trustees after the sudden death last week of JoAnne A. Epps.
Long-time Temple employee and former president Richard M. Englert was named president again on Tuesday by the board of trustees after the sudden death last week of JoAnne A. Epps.Read moreJOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer

Temple University opted for the tried and true Tuesday when it named longtime employee and former president Richard M. Englert its president again — this time just for the academic year.

Englert, 77, was given the appointment by the board of trustees, one week after JoAnne A. Epps — who also had worked at the school for decades — died after falling ill on stage during a university event. She had been acting president since April, following the tumultuous and short tenure of Jason Wingard.

» READ MORE: Temple’s acting president, JoAnne A. Epps, has died after falling ill on stage at university event

Englert served at the university for 45 years in 17 different roles before retiring in 2021, though he maintained the title of chancellor and continued to be active on campus. He has worked at the school for more years than Temple’s founder, Russell Conwell, whose work there spanned 38 years until his death in 1925. Englert twice served as acting president and was president for five years before leaving the role in 2021.

“He is highly regarded by the faculty, deans and senior leadership,” said Mitchell L. Morgan, chair of the board of trustees at the 30,530-student university. Englert will be able “to continue the important work JoAnne started and further strengthen the foundation for our next leader. He is familiar to all of our stakeholders and will not have a learning curve.”

» READ MORE: Englert to leave after 45 years in 17 roles

The university earlier this month launched a search for a new president, naming a search firm and advisory committee, and Morgan said the plan is still to name a new president in the spring. In the interim, Englert will aim to keep the school on the steady path Epps laid out. He will not be a candidate for the permanent job, Morgan said.

“I am honored to again lead this outstanding institution,” Englert said in a statement. “I have witnessed the unwavering passion and resilience of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends. It is these qualities that make our university exceptional, and I am eager to work alongside you to further our mission of access, academic excellence, research and community engagement.”

The university’s plate is full: It’s working through contract negotiations with the Temple Association of University Professionals, the faculty union, and looking for ways to stem a multiyear enrollment decline, as well as continuing to ensure safety following violent episodes near campus last school year.

Epps, a former law school dean and provost under Englert who had worked at the university for nearly 40 years, had stepped in during a difficult time for Temple, calming the waters and smoothing operations. Wingard’s less than two-year tenure was marked by a 42-day graduate student worker strike last spring, dropping enrollment, the shooting death of an on-duty university police officer near campus, and criticism that he was not present enough at the university.

His resignation also came as the faculty union was preparing to hold a vote of no-confidence in him and followed a survey of 1,000 students by the Temple News, the student newspaper, that showed 92% disapproved of Wingard’s performance.

Englert, a Cherry Hill resident, has remained connected to the campus. Most recently, he was a main speaker at a campus vigil for Epps last week and is scheduled to speak at a memorial service for her on campus Friday.

He first served as acting president when former leader Ann Weaver Hart left in 2012. Then he stepped in again in July 2016 after former president Neil D. Theobald resigned under pressure. That time, the board made Englert’s appointment permanent three months after he assumed the acting role.

» READ MORE: Temple officially launches search for its next president

Englert, a Detroit native who grew up in California, came to Temple in 1976 from UCLA, where he got his doctorate. His first job was as assistant to the dean of the education school. Through the years, he served as a dean, provost, chancellor, vice president of administration, acting director of intercollegiate athletics, acting chief administrative officer of the School of Podiatric Medicine, and chief of staff to the then-president Peter Liacouras.

“Dick Englert is the living embodiment of everything that is good about Temple University,” Morgan said in 2020 in a university statement when Englert announced he would be retiring. “His dedication to this institution is unquestioned. Every time Temple has called, Dick has said ‘yes,’ and given his all for this school that he loves so much.”

Ken Kaiser, Temple’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, said having Englert available to step in is “a blessing” for Temple.

“If anyone can carry on the legacy [JoAnne Epps] created, it’s Dick,” Kaiser said.