Built in 1906, Rankin Hall was named after Carroll's third president, Walter Rankin (1866-1871 and 1893-1903). The building contains the biology and psychology programs and laboratories.
Walter Lowrie Rankin was born in India in 1841 while his parents worked for the American Board of Foreign Missions. The family returned to New Jersey in 1848, and in 1857, Rankin entered Princeton University as a sophomore, graduating third in his class of ninety in 1860 at age 19. He taught school in Elizabeth, N.J. and studied law, before being asked to serve as the second president of Carroll College in 1866. Throughout his career at Carroll he also taught Latin. His tenure started with a class of fifteen students – the college had been closed since 1863, due to a student shortage during the Civil War, and had very little financial support. Rankin was a tireless promoter and fundraiser, gradually increasing enrollment and the college’s stature between 1866 and 1903. Though Carroll retained its college charter from the beginning, during Rankin’s tenure the school operated strictly as a pre-collegiate institution and junior college (under direction of the board.) Walter Rankin, however, was strict with educational standards, for both men and women, and worked to make Carroll an outstanding academy, sending many well-prepared graduates on to higher education in the East.
During Rankin’s first year in Waukesha, he met and married a local woman, Mary Jane Nickell, and they went on to have four children: May N. Rankin (1868-1931), Walter Rankin Jr. (1870-1944), Sarah Rankin (1875-1876), and C. Adela Rankin (1880-1955). Walter Rankin had two absences from Carroll College during his long tenure, both caused by serious financial issues at the college. From 1871-1873, Rankin took a professorship at Pennsylvania Female College in Pittsburgh and returned after the board was able to guarantee his salary (previously it had been tied to how much fundraising he was able to do.) From 1879-1881, Rankin taught at Lake Forest College in Illinois, and when he returned to Carroll in 1881, brought back substantial Chicago Presbyterian connections to Waukesha, which was just coming into its own as a springs resort town. During the 1890s, Rankin renewed contact with a childhood friend, Ralph Voorhees, who, with his wife Elizabeth, was generously funding a number of religiously based colleges, Carroll included. The Voorhees’ donations between 1896 and 1906 totaled $200,000 and helped to set the college on sound financial footing. Their contributions funded the construction of three buildings on campus, one being the Rankin Hall of Science, which was completed in 1906. By the turn of the century, Walter Rankin was in poor health, and retired at the end of 1903 as both a professor, college president, and chief fundraiser. During the last few years of his life he lectured occasionally, and studied and published articles on astronomy. After a trip to Biloxi, Mississippi during the winter of 1909-1910 with his wife Mary, Rankin died in June 1910.
The building underwent major renovations in 2018 to reconfigure the historic structure into a modern facility, ready to meet the needs of Carroll's newest generation of students. As the third, and final piece of a multi-phase plan to improve academic spaces on campus, Carroll University's Board of Trustees authorized $11 million for improvements. Most of the upgrades were confined to the building's interior because of the historic-nature of the building. Rankin Hall was rededicated on Sept. 14, 2018 and now houses nine technology-infused classrooms, a number of student spaces and 25 offices for faculty predominantly in environmental science, psychology and biology. Carroll University was honored with the 2019 George Gunn Award for Excellence in Architectural Preservation and Historic Restoration from the City of Waukesha Landmarks Commission for the restoration of Rankin Hall.