Robert Atkinson, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized authority in helping people tell their life stories. He is a pioneer in the development of the life story interview methodology and among the first to apply Joseph Campbell’s classic work on the mythological journey of the hero to contemporary personal mythmaking. His two books in these areas have been translated into Japanese, Italian, and Romanian and are widely used in various personal growth and life review settings.
He received his B.A. in philosophy and American Studies from Southampton College of Long Island University, and an M.A. in American Folk Culture from SUNY, Cooperstown. Then his journeys took him to the Hudson River and a series of transformative events, including: sailing on the maiden voyage of the Clearwater with Pete Seeger and his singing crew; attending the Woodstock music festival; living in a cabin in the woods near the Hudson River; visiting Arlo Guthrie at his farm in the Berkshires; having a synchronistic and fateful meeting with Joseph Campbell that became a mentoring relationship; being given a cell in a Franciscan monastery as a guest; and, returning to teach a course at Southampton College, all of which can be read about in his memoir of that period, Remembering 1969: Searching For the Eternal in Changing Times (2008).
Following the publication of his first book – Songs of the Open Road: The Poetry of Folk Rock and the Journey of the Hero (1974, a Signet Book, NAL; out of print, but still around somewhere) – he completed his second master’s at the University of New Hampshire in Counseling, and his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in cross-cultural human development. He then did a post-doctoral research fellowship in adolescent development at the University of Chicago, which resulted in the publication of The Teenage World (1987), with his mentors.
He is professor of human development and religious studies, and director of the Life Story Commons at the University of Southern Maine. He is the author, co-author, or editor of eight books, including Latino Voices in New England (2009), an autobiography with Babatunde Olatunji, The Beat of My Drum (2005), The Life Story Interview (1998), and The Gift of Stories (1995). In previous books, he explored life stories from a psychological and cultural perspective. With Mystic Journey (2012), he explores the soul’s story, and the process of soul-making, from a multi-faith, eternal perspective.
At USM, he was the first Diversity Scholar in the College of Education and Human Development (2002-2004) and a co-founding faculty of the Russell Scholars Program and the Religious Studies minor. He has also taught a week long summer course sailing the Maine coast on a traditional schooner. In the fall of 2002, he served as a faculty member on the Semester at Sea around the world voyage with 30 other faculty and 600 undergraduates. He has since sailed on Semester at Sea’s Enrichment Voyages a number of times as a workshop leader.
He recently came back to his early interest of photography and enjoys sharing with others the beauty, mystery, and wonder of the world in which we live. New images will be added as his adventures continue. He also enjoys sailing, biking, hiking, as well as traveling.