Jonathan Ocko: In Memoriam

Jonathan Ocko
Jonathan Ocko

A memorial service celebrating Jonathan Ocko’s spirited life and work will be held on Sunday, April 12, 2015, beginning at 11:00 am at SAS Hall on the NC State campus. All are welcome. 

Please be advised that a huge road race is occurring in Raleigh on April 12 that will cause major road closures and otherwise impact traffic around campus. Use the map provided and these directions:

  • From the I-440 East or West, take exit 2A onto Western Blvd (toward NC State University/downtown).
  • Travel approximately 1.5 miles; turn left onto Dan Allen Drive to enter NC State campus.
  • Proceed straight through first stop sign.
  • At the second traffic light, turn right onto Yarbrough Drive – street will fork to the left.
  • At stop sign, turn right onto Stinson Drive. You will pass SAS Hall on your right.
  • Take first right onto Boney Drive. Park in the lot behind SAS Hall.
  • From the parking lot, enter the building through the double doors to your left.

NC State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences announces with great sadness the sudden and unexpected death of Jonathan Ocko, professor and head of the Department of History, on January 22, 2015. He collapsed at home, and was pronounced dead shortly after being taken to the hospital.

“We mourn Jonathan’s passing, and will miss his intellect, passion, and commitment,” said Dean Jeff Braden. “Although I am confident we will remember fondly his wit, humor, and unflagging good will, I know that today, we mourn the loss of a friend, a colleague, and a leader.”

The dean has appointed Professor David Zonderman to serve as interim head of the department. The Ocko family will plan a memorial service to take place at a future date.

Jonathan Ocko was a highly respected historian of modern China, particularly on the relation of law and society. He earned a Ph.D. from Yale University in Chinese history and taught at Clark University and Wellesley College before coming to NC State as assistant professor in August 1977. He was named a full professor in 1992.

He also served as an adjunct professor of legal history at Duke University’s School of Law, where he taught courses on Chinese legal history and Chinese law and society.

Ocko was instrumental in securing the grant that started Chinese language instruction at NC State University. He also negotiated several institutional affiliations with China. Over the course of his career, he earned prestigious fellowships, including a National Humanities Center fellowship, the Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad Grant and the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in the Humanities.

Ocko was a passionate proponent of the importance of history and the liberal arts as critical to a college education. He developed a keen interest in and advocated strongly for the digital humanities – work that grew out of his consulting work in China on digital rights management as well as on virtual reality and game software.

In addition to his scholarship, Ocko developed and shared his considerable administrative expertise on behalf of his department, the college, the university, and higher education at large. He led the History Department as head for nearly 13 years. His leadership on campus extended to serving on the Administrative Process Review Committee, among numerous other university-wide initiatives.

“Jonathan was above all a kind person,” said Braden. “Those of us who had the privilege to know him can share stories of his generosity, his enormous spirit, his energy and his determination to make things better, whether for an individual in need, or for the world at large. He cannot be replaced. We will miss him terribly, and remember him fondly, with great admiration.”

Jonathan Ocko leaves behind his wife of 47 years, Aggie Ocko, two sons and their wives, four beloved grandchildren, and countless friends and colleagues.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Jonathan Ocko’s memory to the NC State Foundation, earmarked for the History Enhancement Fund. (Campus Box 7016, NC State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7016).

10 responses on “Jonathan Ocko: In Memoriam

  1. Karla Simon says:

    So sad! My condolences to his family and close friends

  2. Debra deTreville says:

    John and I are very sorry to hear of Jonathan’s death. He was a wonderful asset to the History Department and a caring colleague.

  3. Jeremy Friedlein says:

    What terrible news. Prof. Ocko was my favorite Prof at NC State and one of the reasons I fell in love with China. I moved to China shortly after taking Prof Ocko’s course in Modern China in 1994 I think it was, and have been here ever since. We met to catch up every time he came through Shanghai. We would talk for hours. He was so passionate about China and NC State. I am filled with sadness when I think about how I won’t be meeting Ou laoshi to catch up again this summer over a plate of dumplings. Love and prayers to prof Ocko’s family.

  4. LC says:

    Prof. Jon Ocko was also one of the founding directors of the International Society for Chinese Law and History, and the Society has set up a memorial page for Professor Ocko at:

  5. Linda A. Wending says:

    oh, how sad. Prof. Ocko was always so kind and happy to talk to students. He will be greatly missed. What a lovely gentleman and scholar.

  6. D.R. Ingram, Jr. says:

    I am so saddened to hear this news. I certainly remember Dr. Ocko. He was one of my many History professors at NCSU sometime between ’85 to ’87. I remember during one of our classes, he brought in various Chinese dishes from a local restaurant and we ate lunch and discussed the lesson in our classroom in Harrelson Hall. If I am not mistaken, Dr. Ocko was the person to first introduce me to Chinese cuisine. He was an excellent professor and I will always remember him. He will truly be missed!

  7. Lee Rozakis says:

    I had Dr. Ocko for his Asian Revolutions Seminar, in 1977, when he, and I, were much younger men. I caught up with him recently, to congratulate him as Head of the NCSU History Dept.. He was a dedicated Chinese scholar. I was truly sorry to hear this news. Warm condolences to his family…

  8. Dick Lankford says:

    My sincere condolences to Professor Ocko’s family and the university community on the loss of Jonathan. He will be remembered as an outstanding educator and leader of the History Department.

  9. Carly says:

    This is such sad news! Prof. Ocko was one of my favorite professors at NC State and was instrumental in my decision to go to law school. He will be missed. Thinking of his family…

  10. Jason Shih says:

    I was shocked to learn of Jonathan’s sudden passing away. He was too young to leave the world, where he still had much to do. At NC State, he and I were the first faculty members dedicated to the development of the exchange and collaborative programs with China. He was instrumental and hard to replace for China studies and the support to interested students on campus. Being retired for many years, I miss his colleagueship.

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