On April 11, 2019, the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology held a dedication ceremony to celebrate the completion of the newly renovated Ranney Family Computer Learning Center in Russell Laboratories. The renovation was made possible by a generous donation from Richard and Lorraine Ranney and the tireless efforts of the renovation team. CALS Dean Kate VandenBosch, forest and wildlife ecology’s Mark Rickenbach, and Mary Richards, daughter of Richard and Lorraine, delivered poignant words about the donors, as well as acknowledging the many individuals on the IT, planning, design and construction crews.
Richard Ranney was born in 1918 in Prineville, Oregon and lived in a lumber camp in Oregon until moving to Menomonie, Wisconsin. He attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison and graduated with a degree in agricultural engineering in the 1930s. While a student in CALS, Richard became interested in forest restoration – especially after listening to Aldo Leopold’s lectures in soil conservation courses.
Richard married Lorraine in 1943, and together they raised five daughters: Joan, Mary, Susan, Karen and Ellen. In 1952, Richard and Lorraine purchased a 55-acre parcel of land near Arena, WI.
Their holdings would eventually increase to 110 acres. The Ranney’s were excellent stewards of the land, and in 1992, decided to donate their property to the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology in memory of Richard’s brother, Donald Ranney, who passed away in 1936 while he was a student at UW.
The intent of the land donation was to facilitate teaching and research on the property. In a letter to the department, Lorraine wrote: “We feel pleased students will use it to learn about forest and wildlife management.” In another letter to the department, Richard wrote: “My wife and I, as well as our children, feel that the University has contributed in many ways to our life and well-being. This gift is small compared to many that the University receives, but we hope it can be an inspiration for other “middle class” alumni to make similar contributions.”
For many years, students visited the property as part of classes, but as the curriculum changed, so did the use of the property. Because the department could no longer use the property as an outdoor classroom and teaching lab, the family authorized selling the land as an alternative way to extend the Ranney stewardship legacy. The department used the proceeds of that sale to fund the renovation of the teaching/computer room, now called The Ranney Family Computer Learning Center.