In Memoriam

George De Vos

George De Vos

George De Vos, a professor emeritus of anthropology and Japan scholar who taught at Berkeley from the 1960s until retiring in 1991, died on July 9, 2010, at home in Oakland at the age of 87.

Harvard's Ezra Vogel remembers: George De Vos, was a brilliant insightful psychologist who engaged in comparative study of different cultures. He had training in anthropology and sociology, and took a great interest in the literature and history of different cultures. He used projective tests, especially versions of Thematic Apperception Tests (TAT), to get people in different cultures to make up stories about different pictures they were shown. He used his knowledge of history and literature to broaden the interpretation of the kinds of stories they made up to give insight into their personal style and way of thinking.

In an essay recalling De Vos, Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco and Nancy Scheper-Hughes point to the Flemish origins of De Vos's surname, meaning the fox: De Vos, like the wise fox (kitsune) of ancient Japanese mythology, was everything other than the self-serving careerist. Fiercely intelligent, wise, and fully engaged as a scholar and as a global citizen, DeVos embodied an earlier era and academic sensibility that made the American University the envy of the world.

"The role George loved most was the intellectual trickster, a coyote figure and a gadfly to some of his inter-disciplinary colleagues and to generations of anthropology graduate students," said Scheper-Hughes, also a former student of De Vos's.

As Vogel recalls: From his basic core of the study of Japanese personality, George branched out to study delinquency, personality in other cultures, the marginal position of Koreans in Japan, and socialization. Those who knew George know how insightful he was, what a vital interest he took in the happenings around him, and how creatively he combined the study of anthropology, psychology, and sociology.

In addition to his wife, Suzanne Lake De Vos of Oakland, George De Vos is survived by three children: Laurie Moore, Susan De Vos, and Eric De Vos. His son Michael De Vos died of a heart attack in 2000. Plans for a memorial service are pending.

This essay was compiled by Dr. David Fraser of the Institute of East Asian Studies. He expresses his appreciation to Professor Ezra Vogel of Harvard for his personal remembrances and acknowledges material from the memorial essay by Professor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco of New York University and Professor Nancy Scheper-Hughes of Berkeley’s Department of Anthropology. Some material is also drawn from the obituary of George De Vos by Kathleen Maclay, of Berkeley’s Media Relations.

Click the links below to read online articles about George De Vos.

If you would like to add a personal reminiscense of Professor De Vos, please send it to Catherine Lenfestey, IEAS webmaster.