Peter Vorkink II

Chair of the Department of Religion
Appointed
1972

Education

B.A.
Yale University

MDIV
Union Theological Seminary

M.A., Ph.D.
Harvard University

Biography

Mr. Vorkink, an Episcopal priest who once considered becoming a physician, backed into the study of religion when he was required to fulfill a course distribution in religion or philosophy at college. Philosophy scared him, and he knew nothing about religion. Having come from an “unchurched” family, he had never been introduced to the academic study of religion and found this first course fascinating. Deciding to major in the subject while remaining a pre-med, he was accidentally exposed to the praxis of religion by spending a summer working with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in St. Augustine, Florida. His senior year in college brought him into contact with one of the most activist chaplains of that generation, the Rev. William Sloane Coffin Jr., and the combination of the study of religion in the classroom and the practice of it in social activism led him to decide to go to seminary and into the ministry.

After Union Seminary in New York and ordination to the Episcopal priesthood, he married Gaye Longyear, now Mrs. Vorkink, and together they spent their first year of married life in Tübingen, Germany, after which Mr. Vorkink entered a doctoral program in religion. Thinking he might go into college teaching, he came to the Academy in 1972 for what he thought might be a year or two before he completed his degree, and 40-plus years later he is still here.

The combination of introducing young minds to the academic study of religion and the opportunity to work with those same students in a pastoral as well as a residential setting was something university teaching would probably not have allowed. He and Mrs. Vorkink, who teaches Spanish in the Modern Languages Department at the Academy, lived in a dormitory for 17 years and now reside a block from campus in their own home. Having previously split his time between the school ministry and the classroom, more recently Mr. Vorkink has focused almost exclusively on the teaching of religion in the classroom, and developing a multi-person Religion Department. Mr. and Mrs. Vorkink have taken yearlong sabbaticals three times, once to England and twice to Japan. More recently, in a life of unplanned turns (an unseen divine hand at work?), an Academy parent of a student he had in class encouraged him to remove the ABD (“all but dissertation”) from his name, and then guided him through his dissertation, breaking the university record, so he was told, for the longest gap from start to finish in a doctoral program: 46 years. He continues to this day to enjoy the variety of work and contact with young minds and souls that school mastering allows, and plans to end his career, whenever that comes, in the employ of the Academy.

Outside the classroom, Mr.Vorkink enjoys traveling the globe, reading, gardening and boating in Maine.