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It's been more than 40 years since Jerry Rankin earned an animal science degree in the College of Agriculture and helped lead the University of Wyoming to its second-ever national championship in athletics.
But memories of participating on the rodeo team and taking agriculture classes are still vivid.
"I learned a lot about agriculture while attending UW but even more important were the things I learned about how to interact with instructors and fellow students and athletes. They taught me about human relations, fair dealings, and how to respect others," Rankin says.
That is still with Rankin as he interacts with family and friends, business colleagues, and political leaders across the state and region.
He has worked in agriculture and banking since graduating from UW in 1962, a year after the Cowboys won a national championship in rodeo, UW's second national title behind the men's basketball crown in 1943.
Rankin is vice chairman of the board of directors and chief operating officer of The Jackson State Bank and Trust, is heavily involved in the Jackson community, and remains a strong supporter of the UW rodeo team and 4-H, the youth arm of the Cooperative Extension Service (CES).
These are among the reasons Rankin was selected a 2006 Outstanding Alumnus for the College of Agriculture.
Jackson resident and former U.S. Sen. Clifford Hansen nominated Rankin for the honor.
"Mr. Rankin has distinguished himself in his professional career in both the ranching and banking professions, made significant contributions to agriculture both locally and to the state of Wyoming, and helped to increase public awareness of the importance of agriculture through his volunteer work with various agricultural-related organizations," Hansen states.
Writing letters of support were David Johnson, director of the Cheyenne-based Wyoming Bankers Association, and Grant Larson of Jackson, president of the Wyoming Senate and director of The Jackson State Bank and Trust.
"Jerry has taken full advantage of the education received at UW to pursue endeavors in agriculture and finance," Johnson wrote. "He started a finance career 30 years past using his agricultural background and has advanced to a leadership role in one of Wyoming's largest independent community banks, a bank that has and is one of the very top performing financial institutions in the U.S."
Rankin represented the banking industry in efforts to modernize state laws to the benefit of banking, small business, and the agricultural community, Larson states.
He adds, "As a graduate of the College of Agriculture, Mr. Rankin has remained closely tied to the college as an alumni member, supporter in numerous ways with special interests in the college and its special contributions to the heritage and economy of our great state."
Rankin's roots to UW and the college date back to the 1930s when his father, the late J.S. Rankin, took classes for two years before being drafted in World War II.
"I was 5 when Dad came home from the war. I faintly remember standing at the bus station with my mother and sister, waiting for him to arrive," Rankin recalls.
His father wanted to continue his education at UW, Rankin says, "But that was not an economic option at the time. He had a family to support and a new ranch to run."
J.S. moved his family from LaGrange to a ranch northeast of Douglas when he returned from the war.
"He had a very high regard on a personal and professional level for 4-H leaders, CES agents, faculty members, and deans for the College of Agriculture," Rankin reflects. "He wanted me to go to college, and my childhood background naturally sent me to UW."
Rankin remembers selling several 4-H animals to help fund his first semester at UW in the fall of 1958.
"I remember tuition that semester was $116," he says.
Rankin, who was active in 4-H and FFA while growing up in Douglas, was a bareback rider, steer wrestler, and bull rider on the rodeo team. He also served as the team's president and was a member of UW's Livestock Judging Team.
Rankin says he believes one can learn about agriculture in the classroom and the field, but one cannot learn how to successfully work with people without interacting with them. He believes attending college is one of the best ways to achieve that because of the cultural diversity.
"Successfully interacting with people is what I really learned how to do in college," Rankin says.
Shortly after graduating, he became an agricultural lending supervisor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farmers Home Administration in Sheridan, and then he went to work for the Sheridan County-based Padlock Ranch, one of the largest in the country. He served as administrative assistant and assistant ranch manager for about seven years before being hired as ranch manger for the Snake River Ranch in Jackson. He combined that endeavor with a cattle operation in California before entering banking.
His family still owns the family ranch near Douglas. At his home in Jackson, Rankin raises registered longhorn cattle and lends them to local 4-Hers for activities and the Jackson High School rodeo team for ropings. He has been involved in Friends of the Fair in Jackson, which built an indoor arena for youth activities, including 4-H. Fund-raising efforts continue to pay for the facility.
"I have 40 years in ranching, farming, banking, and community service. I hope I have learned every year and have helped people every year. I know I still have lots to learn about a lot of things," Rankin notes.
He proudly says the tradition his father started by attending UW has continued.
Rankin's wife, Pamela, and the couple's three children and one of two stepdaughters also earned degrees at UW.
Son Kelly is a deputy United States attorney in Casper, daughter Emily is an attorney in Jackson, and son Michael is an attorney and FBI administrator in Carlsbad, California.
Stepdaughter Kedrin Case earned a degree from UW, too, and she and her family live in Dublin, Ireland. Their other stepdaughter, Rhaetia Hanscum, graduated from the University of Oregon and teaches third grade in Denver, Colorado.
"Wyoming is such a great state to live, play, and impart the basics into the young lives of our children," Rankin says.