Jim VanKirk, Past President

I grew up, the youngest of five children, in a little town in upstate New York. My family lived there despite my father’s hour-each-way commute largely because of the sense of community and fellowship we found at the First Presbyterian Church of Phelps.

My early adult life was spent with my first wife and two boys in villages across upstate New York as I worked for Cornell University in agricultural adult education programs. After my first marriage ended, I came to Raleigh in 2004. I worked here for NCSU until retiring in 2015. My wife Hedy Hollyfield is a member of the Kadampa (Tibetan Buddhist) Center but participates in many UUFR activities. Our partnership provided me with an added bonus, step-daughter Kiersten and her family (husband Anthony and two grandsons). We are very fortunate that they live nearby.

I pretty much stopped attending church as soon as I left my parents’ home in the early 1970s. When my kids (two boys) came along in the 1980s, I returned to church participation to find community and to provide the kids with a footing in our Judeo-Christian roots, but I was never a member of a church and I quit attending once the kids grew up.  I wish I’d known about Unitarian Universalism then.

I came to UUFR one Sunday in 2006 looking for…something…and have been here ever since. Through the years I’ve served on several committees, work groups, and task forces. We’re regulars at Sunday services, Wednesday Night Dinner, and the Friday Happy Hour. I like to sing and really miss joining a couple hundred UUs in a rousing rendition of “This Little Light” (one day soon, I hope). I’m passionate about progressive politics, I play a lot of golf, and I’ll be a beginner piano player for the rest of my life. I enjoy conversations about important topics while sitting outside sipping a cold microbrew.