When WSU president Elson Floyd announced just two weeks ago that he'd be taking a leave of absence to fight cancer, we all held out hope he'd be able to win that battle and resume his rightful place running the university he served so well.
This morning, Floyd lost that battle, as cancer claimed his life, according to a report from KOMO-TV in Seattle. He was 59.
Remembering Elson Floyd
Remembering Elson Floyd
Floyd will be remembered as one of the most beloved and productive presidents in school history. His most notable accomplishment was also his most recent, working to enact a change in state law that would allow WSU to establish a medical school in Spokane. Given the proximity of his death to the passing of the new law, it's pretty obvious he was working tirelessly to see that through even as he battled cancer.
Of course, putting the university's needs above his own wasn't unusual; he once asked the Board of Regents to give him a pay cut as the state faced a budgetary crisis that was going to impact tuition for his students.
Beyond that, Floyd's warm and gregarious personality fit right in at a school known for its warm and welcoming community. He could be seen talking with students on Glenn Terrell Mall, or hanging out with them in the Zzu Cru during basketball games. He famously gave out his personal cell phone number to students who asked for it, and that once included a room full of Daily Evergreen reporters.
He was always approachable, something Brian Floyd wrote about when news of his illness publicly surfaced:
From the moment he took office as the president of Washington State University, Dr. Floyd made it a point to know the people he was entrusted to watch over. He met and established a rapport with the students, one at a time. And I'm extrapolating here, but he remembered you, too. Dr. Floyd has an uncanny ability to put names to faces, and then ask you how your dog is doing. He's put a face to the administration, and worked to build and rebuild relationships, one student, alumni, and donor at a time.
All of this is to say Washington State went from a time where the administration was cold and felt isolated to an administration that felt receptive, a lot like a family, and like there were people bringing the school into the modern age, on par with and exceeding its peer. This is because of Elson Floyd, a North Carolina grad who plied his trade at Mizzou -- where he earned the nickname "E-Flo" that stuck with him.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Floyd's wife, Carmento, and their entire family.