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WSU’s Floyd honored by legislators

Gov. Jay Inslee raises the flag of Washington State University in honor of its late president, Elson Floyd, on Thursday in Olympia. (Associated Press)
Gov. Jay Inslee raises the flag of Washington State University in honor of its late president, Elson Floyd, on Thursday in Olympia. (Associated Press)

OLYMPIA – Legislators praised the late Washington State University President Elson Floyd as a tireless advocate for his adopted state, its communities and their college students.

Amid shouts of “Go Cougs” in the normally sedate chambers, both houses passed resolutions honoring Floyd, who died last weekend of complications from colon cancer.

Lawmakers described him as a winner who worked to make sure the university was a winner, too. He expanded the university’s programs, not just in Pullman but at branch campuses in Spokane, Everett, the Tri-Cities and Vancouver. In recent months he was working with legislators to change state law to allow a new medical school in Spokane, even as he was fighting the colon cancer that eventually took his life.

Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, choked up when he recalled working with Floyd on that and other WSU initiatives. Even after going on medical leave to battle cancer, Floyd remained ready to help with the medical school.

“He told me, ‘If you need me to call somebody, you call me … We’ve got to get this done,’ ” Baumgartner said.

Floyd, 59, died too young, he added, but “maybe heaven needed a branch campus.”

Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, called Floyd a tireless advocate for moving WSU forward: “He gave precious time that could have been spent with his family and on his treatment.”

Washington is a different state because of Floyd, said Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, and the many students he touched will be part of the region’s future.

“Washington lost a giant, but we’ve gained his legacy,” Parker said.

Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said Floyd was recognized as one of the finest public servants Washington ever had, but he was much more than that. “He was one of the finest people we ever had.”

Both chambers have new legislation pending that would name the new medical school after Floyd. While the Senate discussed its resolution, two large color photos of Floyd were in the front of the Senate, and members were urged to sign both. One will go to Floyd’s family; the other will be displayed at the new medical school.

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