Elson Floyd faces toughest challenge yet

THE MAN WHO has taken on daunting challenges and won every time is now facing his biggest battle. WSU President Elson Floyd has asked for, and received from the Board of Regents, a leave of absence to battle cancer. WSU's president since 2007, he had lost noticeable weight in recent months but kept news of his illness to a tight circle of family, friends and colleagues, according to one source.

"These have been incredibly challenging times for me, and it is with great regret I ask to take a leave of absence to address this personal battle with cancer," Floyd said in a press release issued today by the Board of Regents. "While I do so, I ask you to appoint Dr. Dan Bernardo to assume day-to-day duties of the presidency."

Board chair Ryan Durkan said, "Elson Floyd's accomplishments during this past year have been phenomenal. He has the full, unequivocal support of the Board of Regents, and we wish him the very best during his leave."

Floyd's tenure at WSU has been nothing less than eye popping, with his audacious -- and recently approved -- proposal to open a WSU medical school in Spokane the most recent.

According to the source, Floyd wanted to keep his illness quiet until this legislative session in Olympia was close to a wrap in order not to divert attention from the medical school proposal or his $55 million request to super-charge WSU's branch campus in Everett -- yet another of his many head-turning achievements.

"I have said it many times: I have the greatest job in the world," Floyd said in the release. "There is no place on earth like WSU, and I cannot wait to return to the office and all the great work we are doing once my health allows. In the meantime, please keep me in your thoughts and prayers."

For WSU sports fans, Floyd has been a president unlike any since Glenn Terrell in his support of the various Cougar programs. A firm believer that athletics is the proverbial front porch of the university -- meaning all perceptions of the university generally are influenced by athletics -- he has invested heavily to bring WSU's facilities on par with the top tier of the Pac-12.

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