By Kaelin Clay, Online Editor-in-Chief
October 12, 2023
In life, there are people who pass by with a light gleaming bright enough to stick. Many describe each soul that floats about at Ouachita as that same sort of spirited light. Somehow, Ouachita only shines brighter with each year when new faces step foot on campus as a Ouachitonian for the first time. Most of the time, they find themselves coming back to Homecoming or other events, and the exuberance of the Ouachita circle is contagiously noticeable and obviously notable with their presence. It’s the Ouachita magic, and 1993 graduate Dr. Beth Anne Rankin emulates that touch. When she visited Ouachita during Homecoming, that magic was evident.
After spending her college days as the Tiger Band’s feature twirler, winner of the Virginia Queen Piano Competition and a member of the Ouachita Sounds, Rankin graduated from Ouachita with degrees in music and history. The educational accolades continued in 2013 when she received a Masters of Public Administration from Southern Arkansas University and again in 2020 when she earned her doctorate in Leadership and Learning in Organizations from Vanderbilt University.
Rankin’s impressive resume following Ouachita, which is continuing to be built daily, is one that sparks astonishment. From politics to the arts, she has proven that her journey as a Ouachitonian was worthwhile in paving paths catered toward her plethora of public interests.
Rankin’s education and commitment to servanthood, as crafted at Ouachita, have landed her opportunities to wear many hats. Shortly after graduating as Magna Cum Laude and with the honor of Ouachita’s Outstanding Senior Woman, in 1994, Rankin was crowned Miss Arkansas. However, her steam didn’t burn out after the fame of pageantry. She continued to add even more titles. After sporting a sought-out crown, which certainly gave her a platform to shine even brighter, for a year, she wore the hat of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s policy advisor for the National Governors Association and as liaison for the Southern Governors Association, the Council of State Governments, Capitol Hill and the White House. In addition, she coordinated the Governor’s Summit on Economic Development, served on both the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission and Arkansas Election Reform Study Commission and collaborated with the U.S. Mint to chair the statewide initiative for the historical design of the Arkansas State Quarter, which led the nation in citizen participation.
Above all areas of service, Rankin serves the Lord through each step of life. She humbly credits much of her success to Ouachita’s faith-driven curriculum that harvests Christian leaders.
“Whatever life brought in all the different seasons, I knew I could rely on that faith to give us the strength, the diligence and all of the things we strive for in our Christian pilgrimage,” Rankin said. “I look back now, and I certainly see how those seeds were not just planted at Ouachita but how the garden started to grow as far as really having those scriptures come to life… and they accompany you throughout your whole entire life. Paramount to everything, it was that spiritual foundation and cornerstone that helped lay everything in my life.”
Rankin recognizes Ouachita as the quintessential field of opportunity in all aspects. She realized this when her fingers danced across keys in the artistic scene of Branson, Mo., where she performed in the well-known show of Dino Kartsonakis, as a result of a road trip as a college student.
“When Dino came and performed at a church in Hot Springs, I was able to drive over one evening while at OBU and hear him perform, having no idea that one day I would actually work for him and perform in his show,” Rankin said. “I was just in an environment at Ouachita where opportunities came like that. You’re just in that mindset that you’re going to find a way to get to Hot Springs and hear that concert and be inspired by the potential of what life could be.”
Not only was Kartsonakis a point of connection for Rankin during her time at Ouachita, but her political inspiration from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee ironically met her interest in music while sitting in a theater.
“When I was a student at OBU in the fall of 1992, Mike Huckabee came to speak on campus, and I had met the Huckabees before at different events or festivities, but this particular event he came and spoke in a campus sponsored debate,” Rankin said. “At that point, I was not as involved in politics as I had been as a teenager. I was not involved in politics in college until Mike Huckabee landed on campus that night in Verser Theater. I remember sitting there thinking I needed to be doing more, so he really inspired me to get involved and to find my political courage. Of course, at that moment when I was sitting in Verser and listening to him give a speech that night, I had no idea that one day that I would work for him. That opportunity in and of itself, just because I walked across campus and sat in Verser Theater and listened to this extraordinary speaker, opened so many doors for my professional experience.”
Two things that Rankin had always loved were uniquely orchestrated throughout her time at Ouachita.
“I love how I look back and see how God was weaving those threads in my life, almost simultaneously for me both on the musical sphere and the political sphere, to ground me for professional opportunities that seemed very different,” Rankin said. “But that’s exactly what God was doing, and it takes a place like Ouachita for something special like that to happen.”
Today, Rankin is a respected organizational consultant through the company Good Work Partnership. Her present role allows her to see the light of Ouachita in a lens different from the one she viewed campus through as a student.
“Now, as an organizational consultant, Ouachita does fascinate me because I continue to see how it has so many elements of the most authentic organization and because it really functions as a family, and I love that about it,” Rankin said. “That was even fun to see at Homecoming where you run into people that you know and just stepping across campus, seeing the buildings and the little special spots where you remember a laugh with a friend, someone shedding a tear or those close moments where you had with people walking across campus.”
Ouachita has not only been a supplier of futuristic opportunities for Rankin, but it has also brought friendships and dear memories that carve her a place in the Ouachita circle, even after her cherished college days.
“You continue to meet people that have that same Ouachita connection, even if you weren’t there at the same time,” Rankin said. That OBU thread just pulls you all together. There is true power in the Ouachita circle in the most beautiful sense of the word.”
Rankin is a prime example of a believer in the foundation of Ouachita and its future.
“I believe that [God] blesses Ouachita because OBU does stand for that Christian education, and they are unapologetic about that,” Rankin said. “I think the goodness of God and the blessing of God will continue to shower on OBU because of that courage.”
Rankin embodies the Ouachita magic, and she does so well because of her open mind to the pool of opportunities Ouachita held for her as a student and her gratitude for it today. With confidence in this campus, she brings unforgettable light to the Ouachita circle.