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Remembering Elson Floyd on Father's Day

As we celebrate Father's Day, we remember one of the best presidents our beloved university ever had.

WSU Athletics Communications

Good morning, Cougar fans, and Happy Father's Day. Many of us who are dads, and/or are still lucky enough to have our dads in our life are likely preparing to celebrate the day. Before we do that, however, we must pause to mourn the passing of Dr. Elson Floyd, WSU's tenth president. As you all know, Dr. Floyd passed away Saturday after a battle with colon cancer.

As I mentioned, Dr. Floyd (whose nickname E-Flo was coined at the University of Missouri) was the tenth president at WSU. We are all familiar with the name of many past presidents such as Bryan, Compton and Terrell. Even though Floyd's tenure was relatively short, an argument can be made that his was the best. The list of his accomplishments has been well-covered on this site, but there really is no way to briefly summarize everything Dr. Floyd did.

When you look at Dr. Floyd's humble beginnings, the fact that he rose to such a prominent position becomes all the more remarkable. From the Spokesman Review:

Floyd, the first black WSU president, grew up in segregated Henderson, North Carolina, on an unpaved street.

"We couldn’t even afford paper when he started marking in the sand to add up numbers," his mother, Dorothy Floyd, told The Spokesman-Review soon after Floyd was hired at WSU. "He always loved education."

She worked in a factory, and her late husband was a bricklayer. Although they never finished high school, they urged their four sons to pursue college educations.

"I was determined that if I had children, that would be our dinner table talk and our breakfast table talk – education," Dorothy Floyd said. She remembered him coming home from school in the eighth grade weeping because his white friends were headed to college prep schools. Dorothy approached a counselor, who helped Elson get into Darlington School, a college-prep boarding school in Rome, Georgia.

Once Elson Floyd graduated from the University of North Carolina, he helped put his three brothers through school. They graduated from college – though Elson, with his doctorate, held the senior position.

From an athletics standpoint, Dr. Floyd was tremendous, especially when compared to his predecessor, V. Lane Rawlins. Rawlins basically showed Mike Price the door in 2002, marking the zero hour in the downfall of the football program. In contrast, Floyd oversaw the hiring of Mike Leach, at a considerably higher salary than any WSU football coach had ever made. He was also vital in getting the new football facilities built, which made Martin Stadium actually look like a big-time venue.

Probably the most important part of Floyd's interaction with athletics is the fact that he let Bill Moos do his job. When Moos was pitching the football job to Mike Leach, one important factor was the chain of command. Leach reported to Moos, Moos reported to Floyd. There was nothing convoluted about it. It was well-known that Leach could not stand the murky command relationships at Texas Tech, and simplicity of President-A.D.-Football Coach was a big selling point.

While the jury is still out (in my view) on both Leach and Moos, there is no question that the verdict on Dr. Floyd is in. He will go down as leaving one of the most impactful legacies in the history of WSU, and on education in the state of Washington. RIP, Dr. Floyd. Go Cougs


Remembering Elson Floyd

Elson Floyd, WSU’s ‘visionary’ president, dies | The Seattle Times
Research grants tripled under his leadership and WSU’s overall enrollment grew by 17 percent. WSU completed 30 major construction projects, including a Wine Science Center at WSU Tri-Cities, which opened in the last month. And WSU completed a $1 billion fundraising campaign.

Influential WSU President Elson Floyd dies of cancer at 59 - Spokesman.com - June 21, 2015
Floyd, the first black WSU president, grew up in segregated Henderson, North Carolina, on an unpaved street. "We couldn’t even afford paper when he started marking in the sand to add up numbers," his mother, Dorothy Floyd, told The Spokesman-Review soon after Floyd was hired at WSU. "He always loved education."

Leaders react to death of WSU President Elson Floyd - Spokesman.com - June 21, 2015
As news of WSU President Elson Floyd’s death spread Saturday morning, official statements began flooding in lauding Floyd as a visionary leader and a great man. Here are some of the statements.

Elson S. Floyd Named 10th President of Washington State University | News Releases | University of Missouri System
Here is a look back to when Elson Floyd was named president of WSU.

Football

Athlon Previews WSU

Athlon has the Cougars pegged as the 66th-ranked team in the nation, and fifth in the Pac-12 North.

Track and Field

Pac-12 Tabs 34 Cougs for All-Academic Honors - Washington State University Official Athletic Site
Thirty-four Washington State University track and field student-athletes were named to the 2015 Pac-12 Conference Men’s and Women’s Track and Field All-Academic teams, announced Friday by Commissioner Larry Scott.

Beer

Colorado State University offers major in craft beer - CBS News
I was considering going AWOL and relocating to Fort Collins immediately. Then I saw the part about physics, organic chemistry etc. I think I'll just stick to the drinking of the beer, for now.

Non-Sports

Eddie Van Halen on Surviving Addiction, Making New Music and David Lee Roth | Billboard
Van Halen was, is, and always be my favorite rock band. Hell, I even think the dumpster fire of an album they made with Gary Cherone had a couple good songs.

Father's Day

This is a significant Father's Day for myself, and not because I was away from my family last year. Today is big because it was very close to being the first time I celebrated Father's Day without my own dad. Back in mid-March, during a seemingly simple procedure, he went into septic shock and nearly died. Only the attentiveness and quick reaction of the nurses and doctor on duty saved him. I was able to fly up and see him a couple days later, but the ensuing visit only confirmed how close I was to not making it in time.

What I constantly thought about on my way to see him in March wasn't my own sorrow. After all, I've been fortunate to get nearly 39 years with him. What I thought about was the fact that my two sons, along with their two cousins, nearly lost their grandfather before the eldest turned seven years old. I had my grandfathers for 28 and 32 years, so the thought of my boys losing a grandparent so soon was saddening.

Since then, he has undergone some very significant and difficult surgery due to complications caused by diverticulitis. The weeks-long recovery has been fraught with road blocks, including another week-long stay in the hospital. Last Friday, he had what we hope was his final surgery in the process. Through it all my poor mom has soldiered on and helped nurse him back to what we hope will be full health.

So as Dr. Floyd's two children, Jessica and Kenneth, mourn the passing of their father, I consider myself very lucky to still have mine. If you are still fortunate to have a father in your life, I hope you reach out today to tell him you love him.