With the death of Sadako Ogata, the world has lost a tireless advocate and activist, and a fearless moral force. Ogata was the first woman to serve as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Throughout her career, she was at the forefront of international efforts to protect the weakest in societies. Her passion and intellectual rigor will be much missed.

Ogata was born in Tokyo in 1927 to a distinguished family: Her great-grandfather was Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai, who was assassinated by navy officers in 1932 for trying to stop Japanese military incursions into China, her grandfather was a former foreign minister, and her father was ambassador to Finland.

After a peripatetic childhood, living in the United States, China and Hong Kong, Ogata returned to Tokyo, where she graduated from University of the Sacred Heart. She went on to get a master's degree at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and a doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley. She stayed in academia, believing that work in the foreign service was incompatible with life as a mother.