Ezra F. Vogel

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Ezra F. Vogel

Remembering Ezra F. Vogel

(July 11, 1930–December 20, 2020)

I am truly saddened by the passing of Ezra Vogel. He was so helpful and encouraging to me over the years that I referred to him as my patron saint. He said it would be better to call him aniki (elder brother) which I often did. I knew him as that rare human being, utterly without guile. We’ve lost one of the great Asianists.

Kenneth B. Pyle
Founding President
The National Bureau of Asian Research
Henry M. Jackson Professor Emeritus
University of Washington

Although I never studied under Ezra—there being enough to do in the Sanskrit department—I learned a great deal from him later in life. He was the national intelligence officer for East Asia for a time while I was deputy chief of mission in Beijing, and we used to see each other quite regularly. Washington didn’t suit him, but he never held a grudge. Where I really came to know Ezra was some years later, by when I had left the Foreign Service but was still living in Beijing, working for an international law firm. Ezra would stay in my back bedroom for weeks at a time, whilst he was researching his Deng book through conversations with Deng’s relatives and associates. Ezra and I would do our story decanting over breakfast, as he usually returned to my flat too late at night, after bright-eyed Athena had cast sweet sleep over my addled brain. As a superannuated diplomat with no academic credentials, I felt immensely honored to be having such exchanges, of equals in a sense, with such a scholar.

I never lost my respect for his erudition, his insights, and his fundamental human goodness and affection. He was, as the Sanskrit has it, a great pandit who leaves a legacy and a legion of disciples.

William C. McCahill Jr.
Senior Resident Fellow
The National Bureau of Asian Research

Professor Vogel contributed an essay to a roundtable in the inaugural issue of Asia Policy discussing the mission of the journal to bridge the gap between academic research and policymaking.