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Ronald J. Kurtz

Professor Emeritus of Anthropology

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Ronald J. Kurtz

Emeritus Professor of Anthropology

Ron Kurtz, an ethnographer and linguist, became the first full-time anthropologist on the Grinnell College faculty and first chair the department when it became an independent department in 1967-8. With a B.A. in Philosophy from Carleton College (1947) and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from University of New Mexico (1963), Kurtz taught at Chico State College from 1958-61 before coming to Grinnell College. His dissertation research was with the Canyoncito Navajo. Later he conducted field work in Liberia, funded by a Fulbright-Hays award.

His most recent field research in Switzerland (1984) focused on “Continuity and Communal Values in a Tourist Village in the Alps.” Kurtz became a full professor in 1970 and has published a book on Ethnographic Survey of Southeastern Liberia: The Grebo Speaking Peoples Liberian Studies Monograph Series, 7, 1985, as well as in such journals as Ethnohistory and Current Anthropology. Kurtz taught a variety of courses in anthropology. While defining humans as symbolic animals Kurtz taught the four-field approach to the discipline, emphasizing patterning and integration of culture, the evolution of culture, and the interaction of cultural and biological variables in human evolution. The approach was eclectic and also made use of linguistic models of culture. Between 1962-63 and 1964-65, culture area courses covering Africa, Asia, Latin America, and North America were approved, and in 1964-65, Kurtz introduced Language and Culture. Anthropology remained a very popular choice for students and attracted a good share of excellent students, at least a dozen of whom from the decade of the 1960s later earned Ph.D.s in anthropology. Kurtz move to Senior Faculty status in 1989 and later became an Emeritus Professor in Anthropology. The Kurtz Reading Room honors Ron Kurtz many contributions to the discipline of anthropology, the department, the college, and most importantly, to his many students, whose donations made this room possible.

Honor Ron with a gift in support of the Emeritus Professors' Student Research Fund.


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