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Floyd takes fond memories to WMU


Photo Editor's note: This is the first of four Massey Award winner profiles that will appear in the Gazette.

Elson Floyd's departure from the University this summer to become president of Western Michigan University does not mean his work at Carolina will be forgotten any time soon.

Colleagues all across campus praised Floyd for his 14 years in a variety of jobs both at the University and with the state General Administration, including the last three years as Carolina's executive vice chancellor.

They praised him for many of the qualities mentioned in May on Floyd's Massey Award citation: his personal integrity, his ability to foster teamwork, the way he empowered those who reported to him and his dedication to the University.

Leading that praise was Chancellor Michael Hooker, who hired Floyd in 1995 for the newly created position of executive vice chancellor. In that job, Floyd oversees auxiliary services, facilities, business and finance, human resources, information technology, student affairs and university advancement.

"Elson has made innumerable contributions to UNC and to me personally," Hooker said. "What made him succeed so well, I think, is that he is such a people-person that others can't help but to trust him and to respond to him. His concern for the well-being of everyone is so apparent in every interaction that you just feel good being around him."

Devoted from the start

Early in Floyd's career at the University he worked as a student advisor in the General College. That's when Donald Jicha, the associate dean of the General College, got to know Floyd.

Even back then, Jicha said, Floyd displayed the same engaging communication skills and professional devotion that colleagues appreciate today.

"His personal qualities have not changed at all," Jicha said. "He has a tremendous ability to gain the cooperation of people. His willingness to go the extra mile to get something done and his ability to get other people involved in projects was true then as it is now."

Sue Kitchen, vice chancellor for student affairs, said Floyd played a big part in her decision to work at the University.

"When I talked with him, he was so knowledgeable about the division of student affairs and what the current issues were, which is something I look for in a boss," Kitchen said.

Provost Dick Richardson thought enough of Floyd to recommend him to the search committee at Western Michigan. Having taught at Western Michigan from 1965 to 1969, Richardson knew that university needed a president like Floyd, someone Richardson worked side-by-side with for three years.

"He will be a wonderful match [for Western Michigan]," Richardson said. "He will bring their level up by raising their goals and perception."

Deep ties

Floyd's official last day at the University is July 31, but he will be on campus infrequently during July. He will divide his time between getting acclimated to his new job and helping ease the transition at Carolina.

Reflecting on his time at the University--first as a student and then in a variety of administrative jobs--Floyd said that his deep affection for Carolina stems from the many opportunities the school gave him.

"I saw what UNC offered me and my fellow students--a quality education regardless of financial means--and I knew that I wanted to become part of that important enterprise," he said. "As an employee I have been able to see how UNC touches new generations of students and how it makes a difference in their lives. Seeing the cycle come full circle has reaffirmed my dedication to this institution and my love of all it stands for."

Reflections

Asked what his parting thoughts would be for his colleagues, Floyd again focused on students.

"Always remember that each employee has an impact on the education our students receive, whether it's in the classroom, the library, the residence hall or the dining hall," Floyd said. "At UNC we are all educators, contributing to the experience that shapes our students. I can think of few, if any, jobs that are as important."

Floyd's last visit to the Employee Forum encapsulated much of his style in working and interacting with co-workers.

His reputation for taking the direct approach to solving problems showed in his answer, albeit a joking one, to a question about when the local calling area might be expanded.

"Maybe I should just write a memo and tell them to do it," he quipped.

His final remarks to the forum summarized his relationship to fellow employees.

"I've always tried to talk about working together," he said. "The spirit of teamwork is what I've tried to inculcate here."

Before he could leave, though, he had to field the one question on the minds of many staff and faculty members: When is he coming back?

"There is a huge affection in my heart for this campus," he said. "We'll see what the future holds."



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