Distinguished Alumni Awards

Sandra L. Rankin

Sandra L. Rankin

For her expertise and leadership in the areas of software and hardware development at IBM 

Retired Vice President, IBM

  • B.S., 1974, Computer Science, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • M.S., 1978, Computer Science, Washington University

Sandra Rankin is a retired IBM executive with over 33 years of experience working in the field of information technology. She has led efforts in software and hardware development on mainframes, personal computers, business applications, and emerging software industry standards. She has also held leadership positions in worldwide product support.

She began her professional career as a programmer and software designer for IBM in Poughkeepsie, New York, where she led projects focused on improving the performance and capacity of IBM’s mainframe operating system software. In 1983, she went into a management role and was responsible for designing new software and hardware features in IBM’s mainframe systems.

Rankin transferred in Austin, Texas in 1994 to work on IBM’s personal computer and small server operating system. She was promoted to director in 1999 and returned to New York, where she led a project to develop the latest internet technologies for IBM. She also ran a small consulting business to test out these new technologies with customers to prove their readiness for commercial business. She worked with many of the vendors in the computer industry to set standards for internet technologies such as Java, XML, and service-oriented architecture.

In 2002, she led the worldwide customer support team for IBM software and was responsible for maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction. She was promoted to vice president in 2006 and managed the mainframe software and firmware development teams. Rankin was responsible for a team of 3,000 people in labs all over the world with a budget of $250 million.

She was born and raised in Illinois and met her husband, John, in Altgeld Hall on campus during a two-semester differential equations course. Her favorite pastimes include hiking, gardening, reading, and rooting for the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Chicago Bears, and of course, the Fighting Illini. She retired from IBM in 2007 and lives in Danbury, Connecticut with her husband where she spends her time volunteering with local nonprofits as a board member and consultant, focusing on strategy, process, and effective use of IT.