When anthropology professor Richard Grinker returned from a trip to South Africa over the summer, the last message he expected to receive was from Washingtonian magazine.
A 40-year-old expert on Northeast Congo, Grinker was told he would be featured as one of Washingtonian’s “25 Most Beautiful People in D.C.”
“I was not going to do the article until I saw that the (other people featured) were all ordinary people,” Grinker said. “Since the average reader of the magazine is 50 years old I thought I would escape.”
The article was published in the December issue of the magazine, which hit newsstands around Thanksgiving.
Washingtonian magazine came up with the idea for the spread in response to People magazine’s failure to include any Washingtonians in its annual “50 Most Beautiful People” feature and a Travel & Leisure magazine article which claimed D.C. residents are the ugliest of 14 major cities.
“This whole thing has been embarrassing,” Grinker said. “I was teased by a lot of people including other GW faculty. I never thought of myself as beautiful, but I guess I am not bad looking.”
The author of at least two books, Grinker is also the editor of the Anthropological Quarterly, a publication of GW’s Institute for Ethnographic Research.
Grinker said he was chosen as one of Washingtonian’s most “Bright and Beautiful” after GW’s University Relations department nominated him. The department had a copy of Grinker’s photo from his book, “In the Arms of Africa: The Life of Colin M. Turnbull,” and submitted it, along with the press release about his book, to the magazine.
Grinker’s study of Turnbull, a GW professor from 1977-1984 and an anthropologist who died of AIDS in 1994, brought him to the Ituri Rainforest. Grinker spent two years researching “In the Arms of Africa” and became only the second anthropologist (along with Turnbull) to study the pygmies in their native language.
Grinker has been a professor at GW since 1992 and presently teaches Introduction to Socio-cultural Anthropology and a graduate theory course.
Grinker said he loves what he does and is impressed with the expansion of the field of anthropology.
“Since I began teaching at GW, the number of anthropology majors has doubled,” he said.
An author, Grinker tries to reinforce the importance of writing to all his students.
“I stress to my students that writing and learning are connected,” Grinker said. “Ideas cannot be conveyed well without being able to write.”
Though Grinker spends much of his time working for the Anthropological Quarterly and has limited time to teach, he said he is very happy with where he is right now.
“I feel fortunate to be at GW, I love it here and I love teaching,” Grinker said.
Students said they enjoyed listening to Grinker in class and were surprised he was listed as one of the 25 most beautiful Washingtonians.
“I enjoyed having professor Grinker as an anthropology professor. It was a great introductory class and I learned a lot,” said sophomore Erin Barar. “I think that it is great that he was chosen as one of the bright and beautiful in D.C.”
Married with two children, Grinker lives in suburban Maryland. Grinker is currently conducting research on the cultural differences of autism after finding out his oldest daughter, 11, has autism, a developmental disorder that affects the functioning of the brain.
The free time Grinker has left is filled listening to jazz, playing the piano and going to the gym.
“When I turned 40 I began to workout,” said Grinker, who is a regular at the Health and Wellness Center.
“I can run a 5:18 mile and if I had more time I would someday like to break 5 minutes,” Grinker said.