In Memory of




Obituary for Ezra F. Vogel

Cambridge, MA
Ezra F. Vogel

Ezra F. Vogel, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences Emeritus at Harvard University and one of the country’s leading experts on East Asia, passed away at the age of 90 in Cambridge, MA, December 20 due to complications from surgery.

Vogel grew up in the small town of Delaware, Ohio, the son of Jewish immigrants, Joe and Edith Vogel. His father ran a men’s and boys’ clothing store in the center of town, the People’s Store, and he often helped out. He graduated from his hometown college, Ohio Wesleyan University, and spent two years in the U.S. Army before coming to Harvard for his Ph.D.

Vogel was originally trained as a sociologist studying the family in the United States. To develop a broader comparative perspective, following the award of his doctoral degree, he devoted two years to language study and field research in Japan in 1958-60, emerging as a specialist on Japanese society. He then embarked on Chinese-language study in the 1960s, before it was possible to travel to mainland China, and became an accomplished scholar of Chinese society as well. His scholarship spanned from family issues, to social welfare, industrial policy, international relations, and history. He served as the National Intelligence Officer for East Asia with the National Intelligence Council from 1993 to 1995, and maintained a strong interest in U.S. foreign and security policy in Asia from that time. He turned to history in his later years, producing magisterial works on Deng Xiaoping (2011) and Sino-Japanese relations (2019).

Vogel was a devoted husband and father, who hosted a celebration for his extended family at his home every holiday season for the past 25 years. He maintained long-term friendships, regularly going back for high school and college reunions in his hometown.

Vogel is survived by his wife of 41 years, Charlotte Ikels; son David Vogel of Cambridge, MA; son Steven Vogel of Berkeley, CA; daughter Eve Vogel of Amherst, MA; sister Fay Bussgang of Dedham, MA; and five grandchildren.

Family and colleagues plan to hold a memorial service in person when that becomes possible.

Donations may be directed to the Fairbank Center or the Program on US-Japan Relations at Harvard University, or to Ohio Wesleyan University or the charity of your choice.