WSU Tri-Cities Black Student Union honors Elson S. Floyd during recognition event

By Leslie Streeter

An event, three semesters in the making, to recognize Washington State University’s first Black president became a reality on Thursday at WSU Tri-Cities. Students, faculty, staff, and members of the community came together to recognize and honor the late Elson S. Floyd with an unveiling of Floyd’s portrait and a plaque hung in the building named after him on the WSU Tri-Cities campus. Floyd’s widow, Carmento Floyd made a special trip to attend the event.

Chancellor Sandra Haynes speaking behind a podium to a seated audience in the Floyd Atrium

WSU Tri-Cities Chancellor Sandra Haynes speaking in the Floyd Atrium

The building, previously called the West building, was re-named in honor of the late President Floyd in May 2017 in recognition of his legacy at WSU, and to reciprocate the respect and care that he showed to students, staff, and faculty during his presidency. Current WSU Tri-Cities students wanted to take the recognition one step further and felt Black History Month was the appropriate time to honor him.

WSU Tri-Cities Chancellor, Sandra Haynes welcomed guests to the event and gave a brief overview of Floyd and the impact he had on WSU during his tenure.

“Dr. Floyd was the 10th president of Washington State University and the first African American president of WSU.  He served in this role from May 2007 to June 2015. He was known across the state and nation for his passion for increasing access and affordability for higher education and wholly embodying the Cougar spirit,” she said.

Razan Osman, WSU Tri-Cities student and co-president of the Black Student Union expressed her gratitude to the faculty and staff who helped make the event possible and shared why this particular day was so special.

WSU Tri-Cities student Razan Osman speaking at a podium in the Floyd Atrium

WSU Tri-Cities student Razan Osman

“Getting the opportunity to recognize Black excellence within the WSU community is very monumental especially on this day that coincides with what would be Dr. Elson S. Floyd’s birthday and also the last day of Black History Month,” she said. “It just serves to show that black history is all around us and is something to be celebrated and recognized.”

Bella Pretlow, a senior and co-president of the Black Student Union shared how the idea for the recognition event came to life. She recalled that last year the Black Student Union met with faculty and staff to discuss ways the campus should support its Black students. Pretlow said she urged them to support identity clubs such as the Black Student Union and to help those students feel seen, heard and appreciated. She also recommended showing more appreciation for the leaders and trailblazers of color and pointed out that the Elson S. Floyd building lacked any identifying information about the man and leader it was named after.

“What perplexed me was the absence of any significant representation or information within the building named after this remarkable man,” she said. “Today, we not only celebrate Dr. Floyd’s legacy but also mark a significant step toward making his contributions more visible and appreciated within our university community.”

Carmento Floyd speaking behind a podium in the Floyd Atrium

Floyd’s widow, Carmento Floyd made a special trip to attend the event.

Carmento Floyd, Floyd’s widow, took the opportunity to express her thanks and sincere appreciation for the effort that went into the recognition of her late husband. During her remarks, Mrs. Floyd commented she had recently wondered if WSU had forgotten about her husband. She said a few weeks after sharing this sentiment with a friend, she received an email from Reem Osman, a student at WSU Tri-Cities and the vice-president of the Black Student Union, inviting her to attend a ceremony in honor of her late husband.

“When I read the email, I just couldn’t believe it. I cried,” she said.

Mrs. Floyd confirmed how much WSU meant to her husband and how working alongside the faculty, staff and students of WSU impacted them both in positive ways.

After the remarks, attendees moved upstairs to the foyer of the Elson S. Floyd building where a black curtain hung against the west wall. After a count to three, leaders of the Black Student Union and Mrs. Floyd drew the curtains to reveal an engraved plaque commemorating the day in 2017 when the building was renamed in his honor and a large portrait of Floyd.

The essence of the event was captured best by Pretlow when she said in her remarks, “Let us carry forward the spirit of unity and appreciation for diverse leadership, ensuring that the legacy of trailblazers like Dr. Elson S. Floyd continues to inspire and shape the future of Washington State University.”