Alfred K. Ho obituary

contact: Jeanne Baron
| WMU News
Photo of Dr. Alfred K. Ho.


Dr. Alfred K. Ho, professor emeritus of economics at Western Michigan University, died Jan. 26 in Kalamazoo. He was 94.

Ho joined the WMU faculty in 1967 and retired in 1989 after 22 years of service to the University. In addition to teaching, he served stints as chairman of the Committee on Asian Studies and assistant to the dean of international education and programs.

Born in Beijing, Ho was an expert on Far Eastern economies and wrote four books on the region as well as three books on the Chinese economy. His last volume, "China's Reform and Reformers," was published in 2004 during his retirement.

That book tells the story of the economic, political and social struggles in post-Maoist China, through the accounts of some 20 prominent reform leaders. Publication of the work marked the first time some of those leaders' stories were presented in the West.

Alfred K. Ho

Ho came to the United States by boat in 1941 to pursue his education. While crossing the Pacific, he saw what he would discover later was the Japanese armada headed toward Pearl Harbor.

During the later turbulent years of World War II, Ho worked in Washington, D.C., at the Chinese Embassy. He served as the embassy's assistant secretary from 1944 to 1946. After the war, a sense of service led him to take his family back to China to teach.

He was an assistant professor at Yenching University from 1946 to 1948, but the communist takeover of the country led the family to return to the United States by 1949. Settling in California, Ho developed courses and taught Chinese at the U.S. Army Language School in Monterey until 1957. He went on to teach economics at Los Angeles City College for another nine years before joining WMU's faculty and moving to Michigan.

Ho began investigating the development of the Chinese economy in 1951. While at WMU, he made eight trips to China between 1972 and 1988. During his last three trips there, he devoted his time mainly to field study of joint ventures, visiting several of the special economic zones designated for joint ventures, talking to officials in charge and observing joint venture factories in operation.

During a 1988 lecture tour in China with other WMU personnel, including his wife, Marjorie, Ho presented numerous seminars and lectures as well as taught an economics class at Xibei University. XU conferred the title of Honorary Professor on him, an accolade that at the time was limited to only 10 scholars, two of them Nobel Laureates.

Ho was preceded in death by wife Marjorie, WMU emeritus in University Libraries, in 2002.

He earned a bachelor's degree from Yenching University in 1941, a master's degree from the University of Washington in 1942, and a doctoral degree in political science from Princeton University in 1944 as well as a doctoral degree in economics from the University of California-Los Angeles in 1971.


Cremation has taken place. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 15, in Kanley Chapel. RSVP to to attend the reception that will follow.


Visit to make a memorial guestbook entry.

Memorial gifts may be made to WMU or Rose Arbor Hospice in Kalamazoo.