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Perk Rankin, Former Cronkite Professor and Newsweek Ad Executive, Dies

November 28, 2009

William Parkman “Perk” Rankin, professor emeritus of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University and a founding member of the Cronkite Endowment Board, died Monday at his Tempe home. He was 92.

Born in Hudson, N.Y., Rankin was a New York City-based magazine advertising executive for nearly 40 years before he became a teacher.

In 1981, after retiring from Newsweek, Rankin joined ASU’s journalism faculty, drawing on his deep knowledge of media management to help students think and learn about the business side of publications.

Former Cronkite School Director Douglas Anderson said Rankin forged a strong connection with students more than 40 years his junior.

“Perk established a great rapport with, and took a very personal and special interest in, his students,” said Anderson, who is now dean of the College of Communications at Penn State University. “They felt and respected that, and were grateful for it.”

Anderson recalled Rankin as a skillful instructor. “[Perk] had a wonderful way about him,” he said. “A lot of people come out of the business after 40 years and are not naturals in the classroom. But he really, really was.”

Rankin retired from teaching in 1986, after spearheading new courses in magazine and newspaper management. Soon after, Rankin was persuaded to accept the position of special assistant to the director of the Cronkite School to assist Anderson with fundraising efforts.

He also was a founding member of the Cronkite Endowment Board, stepping down after two decades in 2005.

Rankin was a graduate of Syracuse University and launched his career at the Albany (N.Y.) Knickerbocker News as an advertising manager. In 1945, he joined Redbook magazine’s advertising staff.

In 1949 he received an MBA in marketing from New York University, and began working for This Week magazine, where he would spend 20 years. This Week was a supplement to Sunday newspapers across the country that, at its peak circulation, reached 14 million people in 42 cities.

Rankin was a vice president at This Week and traveled around the country visiting newspapers that carried the supplement. After the magazine folded, he spent two years at Time and 12 years at Newsweek.

At the age of 57, Rankin began taking night classes in pursuit of his doctorate. Six years later, he graduated from NYU with a Ph.D. in business education. His doctoral dissertation, “Business Management of General Consumer Magazines,” was published as a book. Rankin also authored “The Practice of Newspaper Management,” which was used by his classes and in journalism schools nationwide.

His wife of 66 years, Ruth, died earlier this year. They lived in the Friendship Village retirement community in Tempe.

Rankin is survived by his children, Joan Stankus and Douglas Rankin, and his grandchildren Todd Rankin and Paul Stankus.

Burial service will be private. His daughter has requested that donations may be made in his name to the Cronkite School Scholarship Fund.