INDEED, THE LIST OF ACHIEVEMENTS at WSU on his watch is long and impressive. For readers of Cougfan.com, there is perhaps no more tangible evidence of his proactive style than athletics. Floyd possessed an understanding of, and advocacy for, athletics not seen from the president's office at WSU since since Glenn Terrell retired in 1985. Rather than lament the immovable -- the out-sized influence of athletics on college campuses -- Floyd put it in perspective and dove in head first. Athletics is, by orders of magnitude, the most influential branding tool any university possesses, he once said. Whether you like that fact or not is immaterial. What is critical, he emphasized, is that you support athletics enthusiastically because how you perform on the fields and courts influences the perception of -- and support for -- everything else your university does. Win in football and applications from prospective students skyrocket. Play in March Madness and donations to academic programs increase. To Floyd, it was basic arithmetic combined with marketing reality. Jim Sterk, WSU's athletic director when Floyd arrived in 2007, hardly knew what hit him when the new boss took over. Instead of a president's office mostly concerned with his accounting skills, Sterk found one pleading for a five-year outline of facilities needs. Sterk's proposal to upgrade Martin Stadium with premium seating and a new press box wasn't just welcomed by Floyd but embraced. The same held true for Bill Moos and his plan to construct the Cougar Football Complex in the west end zone. In 2007, after Tony Bennett guided the Cougar basketball team to March Madness for the first time in 13 years, Floyd was insistent that the coach's salary be in line with the rest of the conference in order to fend off suitors. Bennett was elevated from $350,000 a year to $800,000. A year later, following a Sweet 16 appearance, Bennett's salary was boosted to $1 million and the coach turned down offers from Indiana and Marquette and stayed at WSU another season. "That's the work of a guy who knows what it takes to excel and I can almost guarantee you no other president in WSU history would have had either the confidence or inclination to advocate for athletics like that," a WSU trustee told CF.C last week. "To compete in a big-time conference you need to think in a big-time fashion. That's Elson." His 2010 hiring of Moos drove home the far-sighted nature of his thinking. Floyd's support for athletics could be found in less public ways as well. Women's basketball coach June Daugherty marveled early in her tenure that his door was always open to meet with prospective athletes and their parents during official recruiting visits. In the 2012 football season, when the new south side of Martin opened, Floyd beamed at every home game as he walked the corridors thanking premium seat holders for their support. He was no academician playing a role. His enthusiasm was heartfelt. And anyone who ever sat near him during a game knew he wanted to win and win badly. Elson Floyd won't be here to witness the resurrection of Cougar football when the wins start outnumbering the losses, but his influence on that day when it arrives cannot be understated. A FEW MONTHS AFTER COMING to WSU from the University of Missouri, Floyd wrote this in the WSU Foundation annual report: "In the coming months and years, WSU will embark on multiple paths that intersect in a single goal — the continued transformation of WSU into a premier university that advances economic, social, and cultural progress, and serves the needs of the state of Washington and the world." Looking back on those words today, they sound almost prophetic when trying to capture the essence of the Floyd Years at WSU. He lit a fire at WSU that will burn long into the future. His tenure has been nothing short of remarkable in so many ways. The hope is that he has shown us all, especially the Board of Regents, how a modern-day university president thinks and acts. He will be missed greatly, but his legacy will live on. WSU has created a memorial web page here in which tributes and condolences may be left. In addition, in lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial gifts to honor President Floyd be made to the Elson S. Floyd Founders Fund for the WSU College of Medicine.
ELSON FLOYD 1956-2015
Survived by wife Carmento and their two adult children, Jessica and Kenneth, three granddaughters, his mother Dorothy, and three brothers.
Prior to WSU, he was the president of the University of Missouri and Western Michigan University. A North Carolina native, he earned his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees all from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial gifts to honor President Floyd be made to the Elson S. Floyd Founders Fund for the WSU College of Medicine.