- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - The board of regents of Washington State University must soon begin the process of replacing school President Elson S. Floyd, who died Saturday of complications from colon cancer.

Meanwhile, Daniel Bernardo, WSU’s provost, has assumed the day-to-day duties of running the school as acting president.

In the next few weeks, the regents will hold a special meeting to appoint an interim president and likely name a committee to conduct a nationwide search for a new president, WSU spokeswoman Kathy Barnard said Monday.

The interim president will lead WSU until the new president arrives.

Students organized their own impromptu memorial on Monday, an event that drew about 100 people. The official university “celebration of life” for Floyd is planned for Aug. 26 after students return for fall semester, Barnard said Monday evening. It will be at Beasley Coliseum on the Pullman campus.

Floyd’s family plans a service in his native North Carolina in the next week or two, Barnard said.

Floyd, 59, became president of WSU in 2007 when he was hired away from the four-campus University of Missouri System.

His death drew an outpouring of remembrances from political, educational and business leaders, who praised Floyd’s work in leading the Pullman-based university.

“His dedication to his work is demonstrated by the way he championed the new medical school for WSU-Spokane over the last year, even as he suffered from the disease that took his life,” said state Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville.

“He would provide the same message out on the Palouse, at the Spillman Agronomy Farm, about the important role agricultural research plays in our economy, as he did when he addressed business leaders in the skyscrapers of Bellevue,” Schoesler added.

Floyd’s most recent accomplishment was convincing the Legislature to establish a second public medical school in Washington on the Spokane campus of WSU.

Board of Regents Chair Ryan Durkan also noted Floyd’s leadership of the university’s recent record-breaking $1 billion capital campaign, its largest enrollment and Floyd’s successful effort to double the number of students from minority groups.

When the school announced his medical leave two weeks ago, Floyd said he hoped to return to his duties at some point. His death surprised many people.

Floyd was the first black president of WSU and one of the highest-paid public-college presidents in the country. Earlier this year, the regents approved an increase that brought his annual salary to $775,025.

Floyd enjoyed walking around the Pullman campus greeting students, and would pass out his personal cellphone number to them. Many students called him by his nickname, “E Flo.”

Research grants tripled under his leadership and WSU completed 30 major construction projects, including a Wine Science Center at WSU Tri-Cities, which opened in the past month.

Floyd grew up in the small town of Henderson, North Carolina. His father was a brick mason and his mother a tobacco-factory worker.

He received a scholarship to go to Darlington High School in Georgia, a private boarding school that he called a life-changing event. He attended the University of North Carolina and eventually earned a doctorate.

He was president of Western Michigan University and the University of Missouri System before coming to WSU.

Along with his wife, Carmento, he is survived by his mother, a daughter and son, and other family members.

The family has suggested memorial gifts be made to the Elson S. Floyd Founders Fund for the WSU College of Medicine.

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