Professor Charles B. (Charlie) Keely, Donald G. Herzberg Professor of International Migration and professor of demography emeritus at Georgetown University passed away on December 9th after a short illness.


Charlie received his BA from Fordham University in 1965, and his MA and PhD degrees in Sociology from Fordham in 1966 and 1970. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in demography at Brown University in 1973–74. Charlie taught at Loyola College, Western Michigan, Fordham, and Georgetown. He also spent ten years as a senior staff member at the Population Council and had visiting appointments at Oxford and Columbia universities and Jordan’s Royal Scientific Society.


Charlie almost single-handedly nurtured the newly emerging multi-disciplinary field of migration studies. In 1971, he published a seminal article on the way in which changes in U.S. immigration law were affecting the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of the country, a theme to which he returned throughout his career. His 1979 book—U.S. Immigration: A Policy Analysis—became a classic that guided immigration policy discussions in the 1980s. In his extensive writings on immigration policy, Charlie always underscored the political constraints that complicated policy reform and the foreign policy implications of different policy options. His studies of Asian migration to the Gulf Cooperation Council countries raised questions about the relationship between migration and development that set the stage for future policy debates. In the 1980s and 1990s, Charlie turned attention to refugee issues. His 1996 article, “How nation-states create and respond to refugee flows” is frequently quoted by those attempting to understand why there are refugees and what can be done to assist and protect them.


Charlie’s research and publications covered technical demographic topics such as estimating the number of undocumented aliens as well as a range of important policy issues including visa programs for temporary workers, refugee and asylum policies, remittances, replacement migration, the foreign policy implications of immigration policies, and the demography of forced migration. 


Charlie’s ability to bridge theory and practice made him a significant figure in academic and policy circles. He was a frequent advisor to U.S. congressional committees, federal commissions and international organizations responsible for immigration and refugee policy. He often found the formulation to a policy problem that allowed all sides to reach consensus based on rigorous evidence and careful analysis. One indication of Charlie’s reach and the esteem of his colleagues was his appointment in 2001 as an associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He was a long time member of the Board of Trustees of the Center for Migration Studies, and served as editor of International Migration.


Charlie was a very popular professor who mentored numerous students interested in careers in the fields of demography, migration, and refugee studies. He gave generously of his time to students and colleagues and gladly shared his ideas, insights, and data.


Charlie is survived by his wife, Diane, two children, and four grandsons.


Peter J. Donaldson

Population Council

Elizabeth Hervey Stephen

Georgetown University