December 21, 2020
As Program Director, it is with great sadness that I inform you that Professor Ezra Vogel passed away unexpectedly on December 20, following surgery. He was the founding Director of the Harvard Program on U.S.-Japan Relations in the 1980s, and played an indispensable leadership role in the Program’s development in its early years. During the past 3 decades, he has served as the Program’s Honorary Director. Just last month he offered insightful commentary as discussant for our event on East Asia’s reaction to the U.S. election.
In his prolific scholarship, Ezra brought the lens of a scholar to core social issues while writing with a style that reached beyond the academy. Displaying remarkable breadth of research, he studied the entire region of East Asia even as he brought insights based on deep knowledge of each country. Among his many books are Japan’s New Middle Class, Canton Under Communism, Japan as Number one: Lessons for America, Comeback, One Step Ahead in China: Guangdong Under Reform, The Four Little Dragons: The Spread of Industrialization in East Asia, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, and most recently, China and Japan: Facing History. Teaching at Harvard as a popular professor, his course on Industrial East Asia inspired students over many years to learn more about the interplay of social, economic, and political institutions in the context of foreign cultures.
He was also a significant institutional builder, having served as Chairman of the Council for East Asian Studies, Chairman of the undergraduate concentration in East Asian Studies, and as the Director the Program on U.S.-Japan Relations, the Harvard University Asia Center, and the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. He served as National Intelligence Officer for East Asia at the National Intelligence Council.
Ezra was a beloved teacher, colleague and friend to so many people here at Harvard and around the world, including me. He was not only a prolific scholar and tireless seeker of knowledge, but also treated all scholars, students, and staff with kindness and respect. More than anything, he believed in the value of learning from each other with an open mind. We all will miss him.
Christina L. Davis
Professor, Department of Government
Director, Program on U.S.-Japan Relations
Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at the Radcliffe Institute