Remembering Floyd

Two months after late WSU President Elson S. Floyd’s passing, the WSU Board of Regents honored his memory with a Celebration of Life yesterday afternoon in Beasley Coliseum.

The Board waited until the fall semester began so that WSU students, the heart of Floyd’s passion, could have the opportunity to honor his legacy.

“To the students here today, Elson loved you,” Board of Regents Chair Ryan Durkan said at the beginning of the memorial. A moment of silence followed her sentiments.

More than 10 individuals spoke at the event and did their best to share what they knew of Floyd’s professional and personal character. Governor Jay Inslee, congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Senator Mark Schoesler were among the crowd of privileged speakers.

Inslee, who worked with Floyd to establish the soon-to-be-constructed WSU medical school, was the first to follow Durkan and had only warm memories to share.

“Isn’t it amazing what one gifted Cougar has done for the state of Washington?” Inslee said with an enthusiasm that stirred the entire auditorium to applause. “From the first moment I met Elson Floyd, I knew he was going to rock the state of Washington.”

Inslee set a tone that was echoed by other speakers like Board of Regents member Scott Carson and former student Regents member Kevin Massimino, among others. While he emphasized Floyd’s personal qualities, he could not leave the stage without highlighting Floyd’s crowning achievement of 2015.

The WSU medical school was a big dream of Floyd’s, Inslee said. “It was a joy to see him realize that dream,” he said.

Congresswoman Rodgers followed these statements later, stating that for years to come the state of Washington will be benefiting from the results of said dream through new and skilled doctors.

Inslee closed by stressing the power of Floyd’s leadership and departed from the stage assuring Floyd’s family of his legacy.

“I know the love and respect for your dad will continue as the years grow,” he said.

The men of Alpha Phi Alpha, the fraternity Floyd belonged to while at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, followed with a musical interlude provided by God’s Harmony gospel choir. They spoke words of honor on his behalf and sang hymns praising his legacy.

Several presentations later, Paula Groves Price, Associate Dean of the College of Education, continued the tone emphasizing Floyd’s unfailingly kind and personable attitude – both on and off duty.

“For me, his legacy is much more than a campaign,” Price said. “His legacy is in his humanity.”

His humanity was explained with a bright smile and hints of heavy emotion as she recalled an evening her family spent with Elson and his wife at his mansion near campus.

As soon as Price walked through the doors, Floyd’s attention was diverted to her three-month-old daughter.

As Floyd continued to give all of his attention to Price’s daughter, his plate remained untouched. Price grew nervous, worried Floyd wasn’t enjoying his meal, so she offered to take her daughter back.

But Carmento Floyd, Elson’s wife, kindly interjected with a motherly attitude Price emphasized during her recollection.

“Just let him be,” Carmento said. “I promise you, he will not starve.”

Laughter filled the auditorium in response to the story. For a moment, heavy hearts lifted.

Nearly all of the speakers, Price included, complimented Carmento and the Floyd family and thanked them for sharing Elson with both the Cougar Family and the world.

Scott Carson of the WSU Board of Regents mentioned that Carmento, who he called “Mother Floyd,” gave Elson so much of what made him unique.

Shortly after these sentiments were shared, Carmento, who was not originally scheduled to speak, decided to share a few words on behalf of herself and her family. She did this before Kevin Massimino closed the ceremony.

Speaking with composure and eloquence, Carmento said that her family has been going through extraordinarily hard times. She said that all of the love and support that has been expressed since Elson’s passing has made the hard times easier to manage.

“I’m here today because you love someone very much, that I love very much,” she said. “One thing that has been constant is your love and support.”

Carmento said that all of WSU’s students and supporters made a difference in Floyd’s life. And she believes a difference was made in her and her family’s lives as well.

“We love WSU,” she said. “Elson loved WSU.”

Massimino, the final speaker at the ceremony, ended his speach with a video of Elson speaking at the trophy presentation three years ago when WSU beat UW at the Apple Cup in Pullman. The ceremony concluded with the Cougar Marching Band performing the Cougar Fight Song.

“Know that we will always treasure our relationship with WSU,” Carmento said.

Additional reporting by Lance Lijewski