Rankin will retire effective June 30, 2015. He made the announcement at SAU on Thursday, May 1, 2014.
“It has been a great pleasure to serve with wonderful people at Southern Arkansas University for the past 45 years,” said Rankin. “As we say in Mulerider Country, It’s been quite a ride.”
Rankin was appointed President in 2002, and quickly set forth with his ambitious “Blue and Gold Vision,” SAU’s first-ever capital campaign. In his 13 years, he has almost completed that vision with numerous campus capital projects completed, totaling more than $100 million. The most recent project, the $4.4 million SAU Story Arena and Farmers Bank Reception Center, opened this spring. In addition, a $7.2 million Student Center at SAU Tech is nearing completion.
Rankin’s first challenge was securing funds for and completing the $15.5 million Donald W. Reynolds Campus and Community Center in 2004. The Reynolds Center was the largest construction project SAU’s campus had ever seen, but following it is a list of impressive projects that include the $17.5 million Science Center, a 30,557 square-foot Agriculture Center, $2 million Natural Resource Research Center, a new $2.3 million band hall, a $2.3 million addition to the Wharton Nursing Building, a multipurpose student activity facility, University Village Apartments, three new residence halls, as well as improvements to all athletic facilities.
With each completed construction project, Rankin facilitated growth for SAU’s quality academic programs. Many cutting-edge programs have been added to SAU’s comprehensive list of degrees, including the recent engineering program, the computer game and animation design program, wildlife and marine biology, and digital cinema production.
Rankin has also paid tribute to SAU’s strong heritage by maintaining the campus’ Georgian architecture with each new additional construction project. He also built upon the tradition of the Mulerider, not only telling the history of SAU’s unique athletic mascot at his speaking engagements, but using the Mulerider as a way to nationally brand the University.
Resulting have been years of steady enrollment growth. Despite difficult times in higher education, the fall of 2013 witnessed a record system-wide enrollment of 5,451 students (including SAU Tech). Graduate enrollment at the University is up 200% since 2002.
In addition to his duties as SAU President, Rankin has served as the Economic Advisor to Arkansas Governors Mike Beebe and Mike Huckabee and is Chairman of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors. The economic advisor to the governor is responsible for chairing the Governor’s Council and reviewing the Arkansas state revenue forecast.
Rankin received his Bachelor’s Degree in Management from the University of Arkansas in 1964 and an M.B.A. in Finance from Louisiana Tech University in 1966. He earned his Ph.D. in Finance from the University of Mississippi in 1970 and earned the Chartered Financial Analyst designation in 1979.
In 1968, Rankin joined the faculty of SAU as an Assistant Professor of Business. From 1977-80, he served as Dean of the School of Business Administration and Professor of Economics and Finance at SAU. Rankin also served as a Puterbaugh Professor and Chair of the Department of Economics and Finance at SAU, and again as Dean of the School of Business Administration from 1994-2001. On a one-year leave from SAU in 1992-93, he was consultant for the creation of the Higgenbotham School of Business at Ouachita Baptist University.
Fellow faculty colleagues selected Rankin as the University Honor Professor in 1986. In addition, the Americanism Educational League Award for excellence in teaching Free Enterprise Economics was awarded to Rankin multiple times. He was also a George Washington Honor Medal recipient from the Freedoms Foundation for Excellence in Economic Education. Subsequent to Rankin being chosen the Outstanding Phi Beta Lambda Advisor from Arkansas in 1989, he served on the FBLA-PBL, Inc. National Board of Directors.
Rankin is a past President of the Magnolia-Columbia County Chamber of Commerce. He was Chair of then Governor Mike Huckabee’s Summit on Economic Development in 1998. He currently serves as Chair of the Golden Triangle Economic Development Council, as a member of the Board of Directors of the Arkansas Council of Economic Education, and a member of the Board of the Arkansas Association of Public Universities. Rankin has also served on the NCAA Division II National Presidents’ Council and the NCAA Long-Range Planning Task Force. He is currently a member of the Arkansas Public School Resource Center Policy Board.
Rankin has been actively involved in the Boy Scouts of America as a troop leader for many years and is the proud father of two Eagle Scout sons. He has received the District Award of Merit and the Silver Beaver Award. He is a member of Central Baptist Church serving as a Sunday school teacher in the Men’s Department, where he enjoys song leading with his guitar.
Rankin and his wife, the former Toni Cameron, reside on their farm in Magnolia and have two sons, Curtice and John, and a daughter Beth Anne.