As most of you know by now, President Elson S. Floyd passed away Saturday morning after a long, private battle with cancer. Dr. Floyd forever transformed Washington State University. But he will always hold a special place in the hearts of the faculty, staff and students of Murrow. We owe our very existence as a college to him; I, and many others, are here at WSU thanks to his vision.
While still a candidate for the presidency, Dr. Floyd asked a member of the presidential search committee (a Murrow alum) why the then-Murrow School was hidden in the then-College of Liberal Arts. “Murrow needs to be a college!” he declared. And he made that happen. Dr. Floyd recognized that the Murrow program was – as he often said publicly – a “crown jewel” of Washington State and he understood the value of Edward R. Murrow’s legacy in leveraging WSU’s influence in the media industry and academia on the national level.
The years immediately following our elevation to college status in 2008 were difficult ones. The economy collapsed, state support to higher education was slashed. All those additional faculty and staff lines in the new college’s strategic plan fell by the wayside. We deans were asked to develop plans for draconian budget cuts. Through all of this, Dr. Floyd stood by the college he had created and we were largely spared the painful staff and faculty cuts other colleges endured.
And as UW was restricting in-state admissions, Dr. Floyd took the bold step to expand by one-third WSU’s freshman classes. That move, coupled with his decision to change the funding model and compensate colleges for each student enrolled, was a watershed for Murrow College, putting us on the road to doubling our enrollments and setting in motion a dramatic expansion of our faculty and staff, forever transforming the college.
On a more personal note, Dr. Floyd has been both a role model and a mentor in my six years at Washington State. The decisions of a president, or those of a dean, are not always popular ones.
His deft ability to make the tough calls while continuing to inspire the many constituencies he served, and maintain a dialogue with those who disagreed, has always been an inspiration for me. He never missed an opportunity to thank the WSU community for “all that you do,” and, likewise, consistently went out of his way in public forums when I was present to acknowledge the contribution of Murrow College to excellence at Washington State.
We will dearly miss him and, in his memory, we will redouble our efforts to fulfill the potential he saw in Murrow College.
As our namesake, Edward R. Murrow, might have said, ‘Goodnight, Elson, and good luck.’