Maybe it's my age or perhaps my cynical nature. Regardless of the reasoning, it takes quite a bit to truly impress me these days. But by any measure and through any definition, Dr. Elson Floyd, the new president of the University of Missouri, is an impressive man. Dr. Floyd (or Elson, as he is quick to say) was in the Missouri Bootheel Friday in his first round of visits to this region since his appointment in January.
Dr. Floyd comes to Missouri from North Carolina by way of Washington state and most recently Michigan. His credentials read like a fast-track Who's Who candidate. He has clearly left his mark during each of his academic posts and I am firmly convinced he'll do the same in Missouri.
In many ways, I've looked for an Elson Floyd for quite some time. Dr. Floyd is an extremely articulate African-American who, I believe, fully understands the challenges and obstacles in our society. And he's clearly anxious to address those issues head-on in a manner that is beyond refreshing.
Engaging. That is the word that came to mind time and time again as I watched this young college president make the rounds on Friday. He spent as much time talking and engaging the janitor as he did the lawyers present for his reception here. And when it came time to speak, Dr. Floyd flawlessly ticked off a list of challenges and opportunities available at the University of Missouri. As the father of one remaining student there, I know full well the future of that great school is in strong, competent hands. In fact, I have absolutely no doubt.
As a man of color, Dr. Floyd brings some unique perspectives to the academic world in Missouri. But forget the issue of race, Dr. Floyd brings a wealth of enthusiasm and energy that will bode well for the university system especially now in times of budget constraints. He told Friday night's audience that he will fight to hold tuition increases at the university to a level no higher than the rate of inflation. That is virtually unheard of within the academic community. But it says volumes about Floyd's drive to expand the mission of the university.
Rarely have I been in a gathering that did not include at least one naysayer. But not with Dr. Floyd's visit. There was a universal understanding that this man was clearly up to the challenges ahead and that his tenure with the university would likely be marked with progress on all fronts.
I told someone Friday night that I'd love to run a gubernatorial campaign with Dr. Floyd as the candidate. He has that strength of character and that engaging personality that makes him a leader. He has chosen the world of higher education. But his drive and determination would carry him to success in any field he might choose.
I promised myself to try and bring Elson Floyd back to Sikeston and introduce him to as many people as possible. The more residents exposed to this new dynamic leader the better. You'll come away from the visit knowing you have seen the face of a future leader in our state. Believe me, I know a leader when I see one. I saw one Friday in Sikeston.