Chadron State College President Emeritus Dr Sam Rankin has died after a short bout with pancreatic cancer. Rankin passed away early Sunday in a Dayton, Ohio, hospital just 2 days after his 70th birthday.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Peter’s Church in Huber Heights, Ohio, the suburb of Dayton where Rankin and his wife Sharon…both Dayton natives…had lived since his retirement from Chadron State in 2007.
Rankin was the eighth president of CSC and served nearly 12 years…from September 1986 through June of 1998…when he became both President Emeritus and Board of Trustees Professor of History. He taught on campus for 9 years, then online from Ohio during a 3-year phased retirement.
Rankin’s arrival from Montana State University-Billings…where he’d been vice president…helped spark Chadron State into one of its biggest eras of growth in terms enrollment, programs, and buildings. Enrollment jumped over 45%, the school added MBA and range management programs, scholarship support doubled, and assets of the Chadron State Foundation tripled.
Two key initiatives begun during his tenure as president helped spark the enrollment jump: RHOP…the Rural Health Opportunities Program…which is now at all 3 state colleges and Nebraska-Kearney…and the Non-Resident Scholars Program granting in-state tuition rates for top students from other states.
Chadron State saw a tremendous expansion in technology during Rankin’s tenure. The first was a 2-way television system allowing courses to be offered in Scottsbluff and several other towns and ending the need for professors to travel to those communities to offer classes.
That was followed by library automation, wiring all campus buildings with fiber optics, several computer upgrades, a site on the World Wide Web, and offering classes over the internet.
Rankin also led the way as the Eagles joined the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference after 20 years as independent with no viable conference affiliation. He was inducted into the CSC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006.
The building mini-boom under Rankin included the school’s iconic Lindeken Clock Tower, the wood-fired heating plant that has won national acclaim, the Student Center, and the Con Marshall Press Box at Elliott Field/Don Beebe Stadium.
Conversion of the mothballed Miller Hall gymnasium into a state-of-the-art classroom building was also begun while Rankin was president.
After returning to teaching, Dr. Rankin earned a reputation as an outstanding scholar who was popular with students as he challenged them to make comparisons to what’s happening in the modern world with what they have learned through the study of history.
He later said it was an “extremely enjoyable” time because he was being paid for pursing his hobby: “the study of history and its application to today’s world.”.
Rankin graduated Magna Cum Laude with a major in history from St. Joseph College in Indiana in 1964, received his master’s degree from the University of Wyoming 2 years later, and his Ph.D. from Kent State University in Ohio in 1971.
While a graduate student at Kent State, he saw the 1970 confrontation between anti-war protesters and National Guard troops that resulted in 4 students being killed and one of the most memorable photographs of that turbulent period.
Rankin said he knew he was watching when the troops fired because he could see the barrel of one officer’s .45 pistol…which is only visible as the gun is ejecting a casing after being fired.
In 1974, Rankin was named as the Outstanding Faculty Member at Valley City State University in North Dakota in 1974, then later that year became the school’s Vice President of Academic Affairs at age 32.
He left Valley City State after 9 years to take the same position at Eastern Montana College…now Montana State-Billings…but left there after only 3 years for Chadron State.
Rankin is survived by three sons and a daughter, their spouses, seven grandchildren, and his wife Sharon, a retired registered nurse who worked in that capacity for the Chadron City Schools for 10 years and often was a community health screening volunteer.
Mrs Rankin also served on the Chadron Community Hospital Board, the Nebraska Educational Telecommunications board of directors, and a statewide selection committee for the nation’s military academies.