This is part three in a five part series where we highlight the Kathi Goertzen Coug of the Year finalists. Next up: Steve Gleason.
When I enrolled at Washington State University, the president wasn't exactly winning any popularity contests. Others who attended WSU before me can probably delve into more detail but from what little I knew about V. Lane Rawlins, I shared the general sentiment of displeasure with his performance.
Lucky for me, Rawlins wouldn't be there too long. I didn't concern myself too much with the search for a new president though. After all, I'd never talk to the person and as long as he didn't make my time at WSU more difficult, I didn't really care about him. So when the university hired Dr. Elson S. Floyd I met the announcement with a rather pronounced "whatever."
From the start though, I could sense Floyd wasn't going to be your typical university president. The very first football game he attended, he was chatting with students before kickoff, taking pictures and making himself generally available. Perhaps most importantly though when students or alumni were talking to him, Floyd showed a genuine interest in what they had to say. Whether he actually listening and taking these concerns to heart I didn't know but unlike anyone in such a position, he was at least giving people the time of day.
Better yet, the nickname the students bestowed upon him was one he embraced. Thusly, E-Flo quickly went from a guy I didn't care a lot about to a guy I'm glad we had. Granted, his day-to-day job still didn't effect me too much but it wouldn't be long before it did (kind of).
The rumor had always been athletic director Jim Sterk and Floyd didn't exactly see eye-to-eye. I'd always had the feeling Sterk's contract wouldn't be renewed if he didn't quit and go elsewhere first. Turns out, Sterk might have seen it the same way when he bolted for San Diego State. As soon as Sterk departed, Floyd had a man in mind he wanted to come in and run his athletic department. The first and virtually only name to pop up was Bill Moos and just a couple weeks later, Moos was moving his bobbleheads into an office in Bohler Gym. Floyd knew what he wanted and went out and got it. Every feather Moos puts in his cap is one Floyd can put in as well.
Little did Floyd know when he took the job he was becoming a university president right before the largest economic collapse since the Great Depression. Being the man in charge of a university at time when tuition costs are skyrocketing is never a good position to be in. Don't forget the inevitable staff cuts that will be coming down the pipe as well. The decisions you'd have to make in this situation will be some of the most difficult you'll make in your career. The worst part is none of them will be easy and no matter what you're going to make someone unhappy. To my mind, this is the hardest thing a university president and I don't think Floyd gets enough credit for keeping the ship pointed in the right direction.
More recently, Floyd has been an incredible representative of the university. During a time other schools (cough University of Washington cough) were increasing their acceptance of out of state students to offset costs, Floyd reaffirmed his commitment to the students of Washington by keeping in-state admissions high. Floyd continues to do incredible work for students with his proposed tying of tuition to the Consumer Price Index. Why is this so brilliant? It basically means tuition increases are tied to inflation, not the arbitrary jacking up of prices students have experienced in recent years. This means, although tuition would still increase, it would be at a more steady and manageable rate, rather than students paying almost 50 percent more now than I did just three years ago. Oh by the by, part of that plan is to divert some administrative funds and give raises to staffers who haven't had them in years.
Washington State University is lucky to have a man who cares so deeply about his students and staffers. The best part is it's not lip service. Do you see many other university presidents doing everything possible to try and keep the cost of a college education from soaring into the stratosphere? Or finding a way to give staffers a much deserved raise? You don't.
For everything he has done in just five years on the job at Washington State University and the trying times he's already made it through, we're proud to nominate Dr. Elson S. Floyd for the 2012 Kathi Goertzen Coug of the Year award. Congratulations Dr. Floyd and thank you for everything you do for WSU.
By the by, I don't know who took your Christmas decorations, but those guys can find a rope and well, ya know, it's a bodily function they can do "up" it.