Washington State Magazine

Spring 2007

Spring 2007

In This Issue...


Bright plumage against green foliage: the grandeur and beauty of evolution :: Some have told me that evolutionary explanation robs nature of beauty. This attitude puzzles me, because all the evolutionary biologists whom I know are driven by a love for nature, and to them nothing is more exciting than to uncover some hidden aspect of a natural system. by Michael Webster

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Story: A Conversation about Art and Biology with Ellen Dissanayake '57 }

Ray Troll: A story of fish, fossils, and funky art :: Ray Troll '81 has a species of ratfish named after him, Hydrolagus trolli. He calls Darwin "Chuckie D" and paints pictures of him driving around in an Evolvo. This is a man who has embraced his past and paints it wildly and beautifully. by Hannelore Sudermann

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: Strollin' and Trollin': A tour of Ray Troll's Ketchikan, with music unlike anything you've ever heard before. :: He draws. He paints. He writes songs and—oh lord—he sings them! Hear him for yourself as you tour the world of Ray Troll '81 via an audio slide show produced especially for Washington State Magazine Online. }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Activity: Flying With the Dragon :: Know anyone with crayons? If so, we have a coloring treat for you: an Evon Zerbetz '82 original, uncolored. }

Darwin was just the beginning: A sampler of evolutionary biology at WSU :: All of modern biology and medicine is based on the theory of evolution, and every life scientist arguably is an evolutionary biologist. So where to start in exploring evolutionary biology at WSU? How about with dung beetles, African violets, and promiscuous wrens? by Cherie Winner

Zoology 61: Teaching eugenics at WSU :: Eugenics was the dark side of our understanding of human evolution. American eugenicists were united by the idea that the human race was degenerating because inferior people were breeding more quickly than those who were "well born." Zoology 61, Genetics and Eugenics, was finally dropped from the course catalog at Washington State College in 1950. by Stephen Jones

Why Doubt? Skepticism as a basis for change and understanding :: Skepticism can forestall a too-willing acquiescence to the-way-things-are; it can distance us from dogmatism and ward us away from zealotry; it can expose our mistakes. by Will Hamlin



:: SPORTS: Vaulting ambition

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: Forgetting gravity :: WSU student Todd Griffiths performing gymnastics atop a stationary, then a cantering, horse. }


{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Music: Horace Alexander Young plays "That Kind of Girl" :: Listen to a performance by WSU music faculty member Horace Alexander Young on a track from his CD, Acoustic Contemporary Jazz. }

Cover: One Small Step for a Fish, One Giant Leap for Fishkind, 1995, pastel on paper. "Every mammal, reptile and amphibian alive on the earth today descended from the lobefinned fish that left the water 375 million years ago." —Ray Troll

Elson S. Floyd was named the 10th president of Washington State University in December.

Elson S. Floyd was named the 10th president of Washington State University in December. He and his wife, Carmento, will be moving to Washington from Missouri this spring. Robert Hubner

WSU welcomes a new president

by | © Washington State University

Elson S. Floyd had managed just a few hours of sleep before his cell phone started ringing, kicking off one of the biggest days of his career. It was mid-December and he and his wife, Carmento, were staying in a Seattle-area hotel after meeting with Washington State University's Board of Regents for a job interview. The regents were scheduled to meet, vote, and announce the hiring of the university's 10th president the next morning. But word of the job offer had hit the papers early, and journalists back in Missouri, where the 50-year-old Floyd was serving as the president of the University of Missouri system, wanted to talk.

Later that morning, the Floyds boarded a small charter plane and flew to Pullman, where a crowd had packed into a Lighty Administration conference room to witness the announcement of the new president.

Floyd and his three younger brothers were raised in Henderson, North Carolina by parents who believed a good education would lead to a good life. His family taught him to believe in leadership by example, he said. On this December day, his example was one of confidence and charisma. In the minutes before the meeting, he worked his way through the room, shaking scores of outstretched hands and introducing himself.

Rafael Stone, the regent and Seattle attorney who led search committee, said the four-month process of finding a new president went more quickly than even they expected, but the result was to capture the best possible candidate for WSU. "Elson was exceptional among a pool of exceptional people," said Regent Connie Niva '62, who sits on a number of citizen advisory boards statewide.

As president of Western Michigan University and the Missouri university system, Floyd has already led two universities that look a lot like WSU, said Regent Laura Jennings, a Seattle-based business consultant. Add to that his previous ties to Washington, and then to meet him in person, it was an obvious choice, she said.

As an undergraduate, Floyd studied political science at the University North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He stayed on to earn a doctorate in higher and adult education and started working there at UNC in 1978. He moved through the administrative ranks rather quickly, taking on deanships in student affairs and arts and sciences before becoming the assistant vice president for student services for the 16-campus UNC system in 1988.

Floyd is no stranger to Washington. Starting in 1990, he held several administrative posts at Eastern Washington University, serving as executive vice president before leaving to head the Higher Education Coordinating board for the state. Then he returned to UNC Chapel Hill to assume another senior administrative post. Next he moved to Western Michigan to serve as president, leaving in 2002 for Missouri.

Floyd said he hadn't been looking to leave his job in the Midwest, but when the opportunity to return to Washington came and the search committee called earlier that week, he had to consider it. He said he was attracted by the strong strategic plan President V. Lane Rawlins and his administration had enacted, and by the values and mission of the land-grant university.

At a reception with the faculty in the Alumni Center later that morning, Floyd talked about the responsibility of providing the best service to students, adding to the faculty, and promoting cutting-edge research and scholarship. That afternoon, after meeting hundreds of faculty, staff, and students, and even stopping to talk shop with the mayor, he left for Missouri, where he would make a public announcement of his resignation the next day.

Some campus members said the presidential search progressed too quickly, not offering faculty and staff the time to meet the candidate before he was hired. With a number of other searches going on around the country at the same time, a great pool of candidates had surfaced, said Regent Francois Forgette, a Tri-Cities attorney. WSU's advantage was that it was more nimble, able to act quickly and get the best candidate, he said.

In deciding to hire Floyd, the regents considered his accomplishments and charisma, as well as his passion for leadership, said Ken Alhadeff, chair of the Board of Regents. "It was not a hard choice to make."

Categories: WSU faculty, WSU history | Tags: WSU presidents

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