Robert Atkinson ~ Timeline

My life has been a tapestry of threads and interwoven ‘moments of truth’…


 1967   Graduated from Southampton College, LIU; majored in philosophy and American Studies. 1st photograph, a seascape, published in East Hampton Star. Drove to Seattle in the summer to start a master’s program in Library Science at the University of Washington; dropped out after a month, drove back to NY.

 1968   Master’s degree in American Folk Culture, Cooperstown Graduate Program, SUNY; met Pete Seeger through a life story thesis on Harry Siemsen, a Catskill farmer/singer.

 1969   1st article, a documentation of 5th generation Czechoslovakian glass-blowers, published in New York Folklore Quarterly. Invited by Pete Seeger to be part of the crew for the maiden voyage of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater; sailed with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Don McLean, Gordon Bok, and others as the only non-singing crew member; attended Woodstock. Pete Seeger’s mentoring, through his example and direct guidance, lead to a series of articles on the Clearwater in local magazines and Audubon. Received a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts to do an oral history research project for the Clearwater.

1970   Met Arlo Guthrie and stayed at his farm in the Berkshires with Ramblin’ Jack and his family; returned many times. Lived as a guest in a Franciscan monastery for nine months. Met Joseph Campbell, who became a mentor and guide as well, after one of his Copper Union talks. Taught a course at Southampton College.

1971   Taught on Oceanics, a prep school aboard a Norwegian square-rigger, sailing from Dakar, Senegal to Bergen, Norway. After the school year, hitched a ride and worked on a Norwegian cargo ship from Bergen to Kirkenes above the Arctic Circle in the land of the midnight sun. Returned to hometown, Riverhead, NY, to write. Started a community free school, Centerville Conservatory.

1972-1979    Continued to write and hold a variety of jobs in NY, VT, SC, and NH.

1974   1st book published, Songs of the Open Road: The Poetry of Folk-Rock and the Journey of the Hero. Lived for a month in the village of Sete Cidades, San Miguel, Azores.

1981   Master’s degree in Counseling, University of New Hampshire; taught undergraduate human development course.

1982   Attended Harvard Graduate School of Education; Teaching Fellow in undergraduate Folklore and Mythology program.

1985   Ph.D. in Cross-Cultural Human Development, University of Pennsylvania; taught undergraduate course in human development.

1985-1987    Post-Doctoral Clinical Research Fellow in adolescent development, University of Chicago; co-author of The Teenage World: Adolescents’ Self-Image in Ten Countries; taught in Continuing Education Department at the University of Chicago.

1987-2014    Professor of Human Development and Religious Studies, University of Southern Maine.

1988-2014    Founder and Director of Life Story Commons, University of Southern Maine; built an archive of over 300 life stories of people representing over 40 ethnicities.

1990   Produced “Maine Lives on Stage,” a reading of life stories, with Portland Stage Company. Married Cynthia Deroche.

1993   Produced the documentary video, Helen Nearing: Loving and Leaving the Good Life.

1994   Recorded the life stories of sixteen National Heritage Fellows, recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts as leading tradition-bearers of their communities, during a sabbatical leave.

1995   Published The Gift of Stories: Practical and Spiritual Applications of Autobiography, Life Stories, and Personal Mythmaking; among the first to adapt Joseph Campbell’s timeless pattern of the monomyth to contemporary personal mythmaking. Translated into Japanese. Taught a summer course on board a schooner sailing the Maine coast.

1996   Co-authored with Patricia Locke, a MacArthur Fellow and Lakota elder and educator, an article on the Lakota view of the child, “Children as Sacred Beings.”

1998   Published The Life Story Interview, which has become the international standard methodology for life story interviewing; translated into Italian and Romanian. Produced the documentary video, Gabriel Women: Passamaquoddy Basketmakers.

1999-2001    Affiliate Professor, Psychology Department, Landegg International University, Wienacht, Switzerland.

2000   Presented “Mystic Knowing in Four Sacred Traditions” at the First International Conference on Modern Religions at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

2001   Produced “Calling Maine Home – Life Stories of Three Maine Elders,” a stage reading at the Center for Cultural Exchange. Published the article “Culture and the Evolution of Consciousness” in The Baha’i World.

2002   Sailed around the world as a faculty member on the fall voyage of Semester at Sea, visiting ten countries: Canada, Japan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, India, Kenya, South Africa, Brazil, and Cuba. Returned to photography.

2002-04      1st Diversity Scholar, College of Education and Human Development, USM.

2005   Co-authored with Babatunde Olatunji his autobiography, The Beat of My Drum.

2006   Produced the documentary video, Starting Over: Understanding and Supporting Refugee and Immigrant Experiences.

2008   Published Remembering 1969: Searching for the Eternal in Changing Times, a memoir.

2009   Co-authored Latino Voices in New England.

2010   Led a workshop series on life storytelling and memoir writing on the Semester at Sea Enrichment Voyage to Central America.

2012   Published Mystic Journey: Getting to the Heart of Your Soul’s Story. Led a workshop series on life storytelling and memoir writing on the Semester at Sea Enrichment Voyage to Central and South America.

2014   Founded StoryCommons, where life stories are recorded locally and shared globally.

2015   Presented on the evolution of justice at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City.

2017   Published The Story of Our Time: From Duality to Interconnectedness to Oneness.

2018  Became a member of the Evolutionary Leaders Circle, a project of the Source of Synergy Foundation.