E. LaVerne Epp, leader of KU Innovation Park, dies; board appoints longtime CFO as interim leader

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

KU Innovation Park's new research and office building opened to the public on Aug. 17, 2022.

The leader of KU’s growing effort to turn its West Campus into a research and development hub that attracts companies from across the country has died.

E. LaVerne Epp, executive chair of KU Innovation Park, has died, the KU organization that runs the park announced on Tuesday evening. Details of Epp’s death, including time and place, were not shared in the announcement.

Epp had led the KU Innovation Park efforts — previously known as the KU Bioscience and Technology Business Center — since 2006. Under his leadership, the center has gone through two major expansions as it has attracted companies ranging from small start-ups to Garmin, which want to be next to KU researchers and students.

photo by: Submitted

E. LaVerne Epp

The park is entering a new phase of development as KU leaders pursue tens of millions of dollars in grant money to create a new cybersecurity center on West Campus, among other developments.

“We are heartbroken by LaVerne’s passing, and we extend our sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues,” KU Chancellor Douglas Girod said in a statement Tuesday evening. “LaVerne was a visionary leader who sought to improve our community through partnership, most notably as the executive chair of KU Innovation Park. It is because of LaVerne and the partners he brought together that the Park today stands among the most impressive university-based economic development organizations in the nation.”

KU Innovation Park’s board of directors has appointed the park’s longtime chief financial officer, Adam Courtney, to serve as interim chief executive officer.

Prior to serving as the chair of KU Innovation Park, Epp served as the president of Kansas’ Bethel College in North Newton. Epp also had a long business history in Lawrence. In the 1980s, he co-founded a development and management for senior living facilities. Its flagship community was Lawrence’s Brandon Woods retirement community.

Since taking over as leader of the KU Innovation Park effort, Epp had become a champion of turning KU’s research into a valuable component of the Lawrence and Kansas economies.

“This center is more than a building,” LaVerne said during the 2009 groundbreaking for the first facility of what would become KU Innovation Park. “It is people, people who will link technology with business services and capital. People who will train and educate bioscience leaders and managers. People who will transform ideas into commerce.”

Girod on Tuesday said Epp was a talented leader who made meaningful connections in the community.

“Beyond his professional achievements, LaVerne will be remembered for his extraordinary kindness and the way he treated people,” Girod said in a statement. “He was humble, gracious and deliberate about sharing credit — because he truly believed every success was a team effort. Most significantly, LaVerne took genuine interest in everyone he met and made everyone around him feel important.”


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