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Dr. Elson S. Floyd, the 10th president of Washington State University, died this summer after battling colon caner. Affectionately known as “E Flo” by his students, Dr. Floyd’s on-hands approach and connection to student culture endeared him to those who thrived under his leadership at the university level.

Floyd was born February 29, 1956 in Henderson, N.C. A leap-year baby, he celebrated his birthday on March 1. Floyd’s parents worked modest jobs and never completed high school, but they pushed the eldest of their four sons to excellence. Floyd obtained a scholarship to the Darlington School, a boarding school in Rome, Ga. and was its first Black student. Floyd shined at Darlington as both a student and athlete.

After graduation, Floyd returned to his home state to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He obtained his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees all from UNC. Floyd then moved into a faculty administration role ahead of taking the job as the sixth president of the Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich. from 1998 to 2003.

Floyd’s next venture was serving as the 21st president of the University of Missouri in the city of Columbia. It was at Mizzou that Floyd got the E Flo nickname because of his approachable, affable nature and close involvement with students needs. Floyd served as the school’s president from 2003 to 2007.

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