Floyd, Elson S. 1956–
Elson S. Floyd 1956–
In 2003 Elson Floyd became the first African American to serve as president of the University of Missouri. He was selected for that position after serving as the president of Western Michigan University for four years and holding numerous other university administrative positions throughout his career. Floyd holds a doctorate in higher and adult education. He has earned a reputation as an excellent administrator who can easily communicate with faculty and students and has become an accomplished fundraiser. Floyd took over as president of the University of Missouri in January of 2003, after signing a five-year contract with the university.
Elson Sylvester Floyd was born on March 1, 1956, in Henderson, North Carolina, just northeast of Durham. He was the oldest of four sons born to Elson and Dorothy Garrett Floyd. His father was a bricklayer and his mother worked the third shift in a tobacco factory. Neither of his parents had graduated from high school, but they encouraged all of their children to value education, and Floyd’s other three siblings also graduated from college and then pursued careers at a diesel company, a bank, and with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
As an academic professional Floyd has always gone out of his way to make individuals feel important, and he has attributed that ability to his experiences attending segregated public schools in Henderson as a child, in a time when African Americans were treated as non-persons. After his second year of high school, however, Floyd earned an academic scholarship to Darlington High School in Rome, Georgia, a private boarding school for exceptional students. Floyd graduated in 1974, and was the school’s first African-American graduate. During his high school years, Floyd was active in student clubs. He excelled in both academics and athletics, and was a star football player and track team member.
Floyd turned down offers of football scholarships to college and instead accepted an academic scholarship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, one of the country’s leading research institutions. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and speech in 1978. He had planned to continue his
At a Glance…
Born on March 1,1956, in Henderson, NC; son of Elson and Dorothy (Garrett) Floyd; married Carmento; children: Kenny, Jessica. Education: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, BA, 1976, MA, 1982, PhD, 1984. Politics: Democrat, Religion: Baptist.
Career: University of North Carolina, assistant dean for student life, associate dean for academic services, 1970–90, executive vice chancellor and chief administrative and operating officer, 1995–98; Eastern Washington University, vice president for student services and executive vice president, 1990–93; Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board, executive director, 1993–95; Western Michigan University, president, 1998–2002; University of Missouri, president, 2003–.
Selected memberships: American Council of Educators; American Educators Research Association; Association for the Study of Higher Education.
Awards; C. Knox Massey Award for Distinguished Service, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Addresses: Office —University of Missouri System, University Relations, 321 University Hall, Columbia, MO 65211.
education by attending law school, but he postponed this goal in order to work and help his brothers pay for their college educations.
In 1978 Floyd accepted a position as an assistant dean for student life at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Rather than pursue a career in law, he decided to build a career in academic administration. He stayed at the University of North Carolina for 13 years, holding various administrative positions at the school. He also earned a master’s degree in adult education in 1982 and a Ph.D. in higher and adult education in 1984. In 1988 he was promoted to the position of assistant vice president for student services at the university. In that capacity, he developed policies for student and academic affairs for 16 campuses in the university system.
In 1990 Floyd left the University of North Carolina to accept a job as vice president for student services at Eastern Washington University. He later became vice president for administration as well as executive vice president and chief operations officer. Floyd left Eastern Washington University in 1993 in order to serve as executive director of the Washington State Higher Education Board. In that capacity he was responsible for coordinating and overseeing postsecondary education for the entire state.
In 1995 Floyd returned to the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill to serve as the executive vice chancellor and chief administrative and operating officer. This position gave him responsibility for the business and finances of the university, as well as for human resources, student affairs, information technology, and university development. Floyd excelled as an administrator and was well respected by his peers. “Elson offers a rare mix as a leader,” UNC Chancellor Michael Hooker told the University of North Carolina News. “He is a consummate professional who knows how to get the job done, yet tempers his leadership with the compassion, honesty and integrity that have won him respect from all of our campus constituencies.”
Floyd left Chapel Hill again in 1998 in order to become the sixth president of Western Michigan University, the third largest university in the state of Michigan. He also served as a faculty member in the university’s College of Education. Under Floyd’s leadership Western Michigan University became the fastest growing campus in the state, with over 30,000 students. Floyd proved to be a successful fund-raiser, garnering more than $125 million for the university. He was dedicated to improving relations between administrators and faculty, and he also remained responsive to students’ needs. Floyd interacted with students as often as possible, speaking with them informally on campus, as well as holding more formal meetings with student groups. Describing the amount of time he spent interacting with students, Floyd explained to Susan C. Thomson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I want to keep my finger on the pulse.”
During his tenure at Western, Floyd also increased the status of that university as a research institution. Most notably Floyd negotiated the inclusion of Western into the Michigan life-sciences research corridor, a multi-million dollar project to increase and improve life sciences research, that originally included the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University. Floyd oversaw the development of a 265-acre technology and business park that would provide research facilities and business opportunities. He also made use of the latest methods available in information technology, making Western Michigan the first campus in the state of Michigan and the largest university in the country to provide wireless technology throughout the campus.
In the fall of 2002 Floyd received an offer to become the president of the University of Missouri (UM), replacing retiring president Manuel Pancheco. Although Hoyd had enjoyed working at Western Michigan, the University of Missouri now offered him a different set of challenges. The university system at UM consisted of four campuses and had about twice as many students as Western Michigan University. Although Western Michigan offered Floyd increased incentives to stay on as president, the University of Missouri offered him $350,000 a year under a five-year contract. In January of 2003 Floyd accepted the position at Missouri, becoming that university’s twenty-first president and the first African-American president in the school’s history. Floyd eagerly embraced his new career opportunity. “I want to connect with the people of Missouri and learn more about their aspirations for the future,” Floyd told the University of Missouri Spectrum Newsletter.
As president of the university, Floyd reported directly to the nine-member board of curators who had unanimously selected him for the position. “Dr. Floyd is a strong leader who inspires the people around him,” UM Curators’ President John Mathes told Nate Carlisle of the Columbia Daily Tribune. Floyd’s first task in his new position was to deal with the fiscal issues which arose when the university lost ten percent of its state appropriation due to budget cuts. Due to the size and scope of the University of Missouri system, Floyd’s responsibilities call for him to spend more time working with state legislators than he did in his previous positions. “It is important for our legislators to understand the power, the influence, the visibility, the role the University of Missouri must play in a dynamic economic equation,” Floyd said at a news conference, according to Josh Flory of the Columbia Daily Tribune.
In April of 2003 Floyd outlined his views in the University of Missouri Spectrum Newsletter regarding the most important issues facing higher education. Some of the issues given high priority in his article were those dealing with the economic slowdown, understanding the implications of the recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action, increasing financial aid for students, building a modern workforce, improving the quality of teachers, advancing information technology and life sciences, and balancing academics and athletics.
Although the challenges of the presidency of the University of Missouri will undoubtedly take up much of Hoyd’s time, he is a committed family man. Hoyd and his wife, Carmento, have two children: a son, Kenny, and a daughter, Jessica.
The Complete Marquis Who’s Who, Marquis Who’s Who, 2003.
Who’s Who Among African Americans, 16th ed., Gale, 2003.
Black Issues in Higher Education, December 5, 2002, p. 10.
Ebony, February 2003, p. 10.
Jet, January 27, 2003, p. 32.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News, November 7, 2002; November 13, 2002; November 18, 2002; January 6, 2003; May 2, 2003.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 24, 2002, p. C1.
“Bio - Dr. Elson S. Hoyd,” Ready2Net, http://csumb.edu/ready2net/speakers/2001/program4/bio_floyd.html (June 28, 2003).
“Carmento Floyd receives UM Welcome,” Columbia Missourian, http://digmo.com:8080/NewsEngin/NewsArchive.nsf (June 28, 2003).
“Dr. Elson S. Hoyd, President,” University of Missouri System, www.system.missouri.edu/urel/main/second/presi/wprsl.htm (June 28, 2003).
“Elson Floyd Chosen as Next UM System President,” University of Missouri System, Spectrum News, www.ps.missouri.edu/DeptPubs/UniRel/Spectrum/DEC2002/Spectruml.html (June 28, 2003).
“Elson Sylvester Floyd,” Biography Resource Center Online, www.gale.com/servlet/BioRC (June 28, 2003).
“Floyd Identifies Ten Issues Currently Facing Higher Education,” University of Missouri System, Spectrum News, www.ps.missouri.edu/DeptPubs/UniRel/Spectrum/APR2003/Spectrum3.html (June 28, 2003).
“President Floyd’s First Report to Board,” University of Missouri System, Spectrum News, www.ps.missouri.edu/DeptPubs/UniRel/Spectrum/FEB2003/Spectruml.html (June 28, 2003).
“Reaction Quotes,” University of North Carolina News, www.unc.edu/news/newsserv/univ/apr98/floyreax.html (June 28, 2003).
—Janet P. Stamatel
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