Where do I even begin? Where do you start with a man who gave so much to a place you love so dearly? What more is there to say that hasn't already been said about a kind, generous, brilliant and exceptional human being, robbed of life too soon?
I don't really know, but I'm sure as hell going to try. I'm going to try my very best to tell you what Dr. Elson S. Floyd means to Washington State University, even knowing that he means so much more than my words could ever express.
A man who arrived at WSU just before the school would be plunged into some of the most dire financial straits it had ever seen, Floyd didn't cower from the problem; he faced it head on. He tightened the budgetary reigns, took a paycut, and guided the school through the tunnel to the other side. Afterwards, with tuition continuing to skyrocket, he tried to find solutions to keep tuition increases to a minimum, recognizing the exceptional cost of a higher education was hampering his students.
Remembering Elson Floyd
Remembering Elson Floyd
When the University of Washington's solution to budget issues was to bring in more out-of-state students, Floyd doubled down on his commitment to students in the state of Washington. He spearheaded the Campaign For WSU, raising over $1 billion dollars for the university, fostered a donation from Paul Allen for a new vet med building, and helped usher WSU athletics into unprecedented facilities growth. Just two months before he passed away, he finalized his biggest accomplishment: permission from the state to establish a medical school.
His resume speaks for itself and on its own, would be amongst the most exceptional of any university president in the nation. But what made E-Flo so beloved by so many WSU alums, students and even people without any association to the university, was who he was as a person.
Frequently, when university presidents glad hand, the interactions seem hollow or even forced. You never felt that way with E-Flo. His genuine interest in you, your life goals or even just what was in that cooler at your tailgate was always evident. His warmth made him incredibly approachable and he'd frequently stop and chat with current or future students on his way through campus. Can you find me another university president who will get up on the podium after a rivalry football game and do this? Or go check on camping students and do this? There's no way.
He didn't feel like your university's president. He felt like your friend. And that's why this hurts so much.
E-Flo wasn't just my alma mater's president. He wasn't just the man who brought WSU through an economic downturn and made sure it was healthier on the other side. He was my friend. He was everybody's friend. He was so immensely proud of everyone who passed by him at graduation. The look of pride on his face as I hugged him is something I will cherish until the end of my days.
What embodies who he was most though is probably my favorite interaction with him. When Bill Moos was hired as athletic director, the assembled press sat in the front row of the CUB Auditorium awaiting his arrival. Before he got there, E-Flo took the time to shake every press member's hand and say hello. We'd met a couple times briefly before and he got to me.
"How are you doing, son? Well I hope."
"I am E-Flo, yourself?"
"I'm great. Thanks for coming."
One of the other media members turned to me and said, "What did you just call him?"
"I called him E-Flo."
E-Flo turned back and said, "I like it better anyway," then smiled and walked away.
Where do I even end? Where do you end with a man whose time at Washington State was much, much too short?
"I flat out have the best job in the country. There is something special about WSU and even more special about being a Coug. It's about family taking care of family."
We love you. We miss you. Go Cougs.