The oldest child of seven children, Wangerin entered the world on February 13, 1944, in Portand, Oregon. As a Lutheran pastor, Wangerin's father traveled often, so Wangerin spent his youth growing up in various cities all over the United States and in Canada. He chose to be further educated and earned a MA degree from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio and studied at Concordia Seminary in Missouri. He also received his M.Div from Christ Seminary-Seminex. Wangerin has lived a full life pastoring an inner-city church, traveling with migrant farm workers, working as a book reviewer, and being a radio announcer. Since 1991 he has been a professor of literature and creative writing at Valparaiso University in Indiana and has penned numerous children's books, novels, plays, religious guidance works, and award-winning short stories and essays.