I was able to see two administrations during my time at Washington State: A dab of V. Lane Rawlins and a pretty good dose of Elson Floyd. For a variety of reasons, I spent quite a bit of time in forums with the presidents, as well as sessions talking to the President of the school about one thing or another. The difference between the two was night and day, and I got the feeling I was watching the school transform in front of my eyes with the change of an administration.
I share a last name with Dr. Floyd, and it became a running joke between he and I, as well as he and my dad -- my dad is an alumni and donor, and spent quite a bit of time talking to the president -- that I was the nephew and my dad was the brother. We were part of the family. It was a family that included daps and hugs each time we ran into each other -- this includes in the middle of a basketball game, in a crowd of people dressed alike -- like it was a reunion.
I wasn't alone, either. 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.
And now he has a bigger battle ahead of him. Dr. Floyd will take a leave of absence effective immediately to battle cancer. It certainly feels unexpected, and came as a punch to the gut. It wasn't the news anyone was expecting to hear on a Friday in June.
If there's one thing I've learned about Dr. Floyd, though, it's that he's up for any challenge presented to him. He doesn't quit. He stays and fights. He came to Washington State perhaps thought by some as a stop-gap -- a reformer who would clean things up and move on after the contract was up. He became a part of Washington State, as anyone who's been to Pullman has.
And he's going to tackle the challenge of beating cancer, just as he's tackled every other challenge that's stood in his way.