Elson Floyd will receive treatment for cancer.
Washington State University President Elson Floyd is going on medical leave effective immediately for cancer treatment, WSU officials announced Friday.
The Spokesman-Review of Spokane reported that he has colon cancer.
“These have been incredibly challenging times for me, and it is with great regret I ask to take a leave of absence to address this personal battle with cancer,” Floyd said in a statement released late Friday afternoon.
WSU’s Board of Regents unanimously voted to designate Provost Dan Bernardo to assume day-to-day duties of the presidency.
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While Floyd and WSU released very little information, Floyd said he “cannot wait to return to the office and all the great work we are doing once my health allows. In the meantime, please keep me in your thoughts and prayers.”
State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, said he received a call from Floyd on Friday. “He was very optimistic with me he’d be able to recover and be back on the job,” Baumgartner said.
Floyd told Baumgartner he was “very eager and willing, during his time away, to be on call as need be.”
Floyd, 59, has served as president of WSU for eight years. He’s widely credited with the university’s successful bid this year to win legislative approval for a new medical school at WSU’s branch campus in Spokane. He has been a frequent presence in Olympia, and is known for working both sides of the aisle to build bipartisan support for WSU’s initiatives.
Floyd has pushed to increase WSU’s influence across the state, including expanding its role at Everett Community College and working on a plan to offer WSU classes at Bellevue College.
In an interview before the announcement, Mike Worthy, a member of the WSU Board of Regents, said Floyd has been the most impactful president WSU has ever had. This May, the regents gave him a 6.9 percent raise. He signed a seven-year contract in 2014 and has told the regents he plans to finish out his professional career at WSU.
Baumgartner praised Floyd as a “tireless worker … I consider him the senior diplomat for higher education, not just for WSU but for all the institutions” in Washington.
Classes have ended at WSU for the 2014-15 academic year, but on Twitter Friday afternoon, dozens of people wished Floyd a speedy recovery under the hashtags #GetWellPresidentFloyd and #gocougs.
Gov. Jay Inslee wrote: “@ESFloyd’s great work can be seen all across WA, east & west. I look forward to seeing him getting back to it soon. #GoElson and #GoCougs!”