Ezra Vogel, one of the most respected scholars on East Asia — who passed away on Dec. 20 — embodied what it meant to be a true master of Japanese and Chinese politics, economics and societies, including the mastering of both nation’s respective languages. There are many scholars who are well-versed in matters related to Japan and China, but Vogel was simply in his own league in terms of his academic work, and his contributions were immeasurable in facilitating a better understanding of the two Asian giants for scholars and laypersons alike.
In July, some of his former students — myself included — and colleagues got together for an online party to celebrate his 90th birthday. The late scholar talked about his life, showing us many old family photos that included his Jewish immigrant parents. We were all amazed how such a radiant boy from the small town of Delaware, Ohio, could rise from such humble beginnings to navigate this world using his intellect and hard work to become the most celebrated expert on both Japan and China.