Elson Floyd, president of Washington State University and former president of the University of Missouri System, has died at 59 of complications from colon cancer.
Floyd had been president at WSU since 2007 and went on medical leave earlier this month. He died Saturday morning at Pullman Regional Hospital.
In a statement from the university, the chairwoman of the Board of Regents, Ryan Durkan, said Floyd will be remembered for a successful $1 billion capital campaign, for gaining bipartisan support for a medical school at WSU’s Spokane campus and for leading the school to its largest enrollment in 125 years.
Durkan said Floyd maintained a positive outlook as he led the school and dealt with cancer.
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Floyd, a native of North Carolina, was the school’s 10th president.
Floyd was named president of the four-campus Missouri system in 2002 at a time when state legislators had cut nearly $200 million from the system’s budget. He began making millions of dollars in cuts. The university system raised tuition 20 percent in his first year to offset state cuts.
Among his first steps was a university policy change that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Over his UM tenure, Floyd was credited with increasing enrollment, adding scholarships for disadvantaged students, improving finances of the University of Missouri Health Care System and starting two university research parks.
An early controversy involved MU basketball player Ricky Clemons, who was living in a halfway house following his guilty plea for assaulting his girlfriend. He was supposed to remain at the house except for school or work, but he attended a Fourth of July party at Floyd’s university residence.
At the party, Clemons wrecked an ATV and ended up in a hospital. For violating halfway house rules, he went to jail.
Floyd’s wife was caught on tape telling Clemons “we’ll pull some favors” to help him leave MU. Floyd apologized for his wife’s comments.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.