Letter from Dr. Alfred E. Stearns to Mr. C.Y. Sun, April 2, 1926


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Letter from Dr. Alfred E. Stearns to Mr. C.Y. Sun, April 2, 1926


Letter from Dr. Alfred E. Stearns to Mr. C.Y. Sun, April 2, 1926


Typed letter sent from Dr. Alfred E. Stearns to Mr. C.Y. Sun detailing the situation surround Mary's education and change in schools. Initiated plans for Mary attending college once he received Sun's cablegram. Explains that since Mary transferred from Abbot Academy to Whittier School, she has improved. States that friends from Abbot Academy, including Miss Shapleigh attempted to force Mary's return to Abbot Academy. Askd Miss Shapleigh to stop and explained the situation. Requested help from Sze. Expressed confusion over cablegram stating to focus less on college. Discussing his guardianship over Mary. Discussed Mary's progress with Mrs. Russell of Whittier school, who believes Mary could perform at middle ranks if taking broad courses. Sent inquiries to Wellesley and Mount Holyoke to see if Mary could attend without taking the full examinations. Explain Mr. Sze plans to contact Elmira College. Hopes Mr. Sun understands why Stearns decided to keep Mary at the Whittier School.


April 2, 1926
Mr. C. Y. Sun
44 Cambridge Road
Tientsin China,

My dear Mr.Sun,

The receipt several days ago of your second cablegram , bearing date of March 19, threw me into something of panic. I confess that t more I thought over its content, the more completely I felt at sea. The transfer of schools had already been made, the expense and responsibility of the new arrangement assumed, and a month of work under the new condition had brought Mary into a far better frame of mind, as indicated not only by her general attitude but by the the good spirit with which she was throwing herself into her studies. Under the condition another change back to the old regime seemed of questionable wisdom at best.

Still another factor, however, entered into situation which I could not well ignore. From the moment Mary changed from Abbot Academy to the Whittier School at Merrimac several of her enthusiastic Abbot friends and a well-meaning but impulsive and inconsiderate friend in the town, a Miss Shapleigh, vigorously took up the cudgel to override my judgment and to force Mary’s return to Abbot Academy. Mary herself evidently was kept informed of the activities taken in her behalf and probably approved of them, as would perhaps be natural under the circumstances. When I learned of this, I went at once to Miss Shapleigh, read before her all the correspondence that had passed between you and myself, and ask if she did not feel that under the circumstances and in view of her complete ignorance of what had taken place between us she had not overstepped the bounds of propriety and decency in injecting herself into the situation without having even taken the pains to consult with me in any way. After she had read the copies of the last two letters I had written you, she admitted to me frankly that she thought that not even her most intimate friends at Abbot could have explained the situation to you more carefully and fairly than I had done. I found it difficult to persuade her, however, that she owed it to Mary particularly and to you and me to cease her activities, which could only make matters more difficult and trying for us all.

The receipt of your cable message, plus my own disturbed feelings over the whole situation, prompted me to seek advice from other quarters and, since I had to be in New York a few days later, I wired to your minister Mr. Alfred Sze, in Washington and arranged for an interview. Mr.Sze was very kind and gave me several hours of his valuable time. I laid before him all the correspondence and asked him to tell me very frankly if he felt I had done the right thing or had erred in my judgement in transferring Mary to the school In question and starting her preparation for college, as requested in your earlier message. After having read with care our correspondence, Mr. Sze assured me emphatically that he did not see how I could have taken any ether course than that adopted and that he felt that I should cease to worry about things, even if others of limited knowledge of the facts continued to criticize.

Mr Sze told me further and this surprised me very much, that Miss Shapleigh, referred to above, had written him a vigorous letter asking him to cable you urging Mary’s prompt return to Abbot Academy and that to this message he had replied that he could not do this as I was Mary’s guardian in this country, in touch with you, and the only one qualified to make decisions in Mary’s case. The news that Mary’s friends had gone so far as this behind my back distressed me greatly for it indicated a spirit and attitude which were anything but pleasant to contemplate and which did not seem to point to smooth sailing for the future.

Mr. Sze and I discussed fully the contents of your recent cablegram, in which you stated that you now emphasize college less and a return to Abbot. Both of us agreed that in view of the arbitrary interference of outsiders, it would be most unfortunate to change Mary back again to Abbot at this time, for it is clear to us both that such a step would promptly be regarded by those who had interfered as a justification of their position and action, and complete repudiation by you of my earlier judgement and decision, based though they were only on my understanding of your personal wishes in the matter. In other words, for the future it would have been utterly impossible for me to exercise the slightest control over Mary and her doings, for Mary herself would, of course, share the feelings of her friends that she had been mishandled by me in the past. We agreed further that to take this step would necessarily force me to resign at once my guardianship, something which 1 shall be perfectly willing to do if that is your wish and if others can be found to fill the position more satisfactorily than I. Indeed I should be ready to resign at once if it were not for two factors; (1) my unwillingness to turn Mary’s affairs over to those mho have impulsively and unfairly injected themselves into the situation in a wholly uncalled for way, and (2)because of the difficulty in finding the type of person who could and would assume this responsibility promptly and of whose qualifications to fill the position to your satisfaction and do for Mary what I am sure you wish to have done for her. In view of all that has been said above I have been compelled to feel that the decision which Mr. Sze and I reached is wise and that Mary should finish out the year at the Wittier School, concentrating on college preparatory work.

I had a long talk with Mrs. Russell, the head of this school. Just before I started for Washington and was assured by her that from what she had seen of Mary’s work thus far, she felt that, if Mary could possibly gain admission to college this coming fall, she would probably be able to hold the pace there as well as perhaps one-third, at least, of the student body and that with another year of preparation she ought to stand well up in the middle ranks, if not better. She added, however, that this was on the assumption that Mary would take the broader courses in college rather than concentrate on languages or Mathematics.

I am writing to the presidents of Wellesley and Mount Holyoke, both of whom I happen to know personally, to see whether some way can be found to allow Mary to enter without meeting the full requirement of entrance examination regularly demanded of candidates. I am not at all sure that I can gain such concession, but if it were possible, it would probably mean the saving of an extra year of preparation, and that at least is worth striving for.

Mr. Sze tells me that he has recently sent one of his wards to Elmira College in New York where the requirements for admission are not so stiff and where the tone and standards are known to be good. Curiously, Elmira is one of the colleges I have had under consideration during recent months when it there might be a chance that you would wish to have Mary go on to colleges after completing the general course at Abbot. I was doubly glad, therefore, to get Mr. Sze’s endorsement of the college, of which he evidently has a very high opinion.

I shall await with interest Mr.Robinson’s arrival, and in the meantime will continue to do my best to see that Mary secures all that can possibly be provided for her to assure at least a fair test of the college plan. I hope that you will not feel that I have erred in deciding to over ride the suggestion contained in your last cable message and to let Mary finish out the year at Whittier School. I am sure that you will understand after you have read the details given above that I have tried to the best of my ability to solve wisely and well a very complicated and trying problem and that my sole object, as in the past, has always been to carry out the wishes which I believed you to entertain for Mary’s welfare and in ways of which I am prompted to think you yourself would approve were you here on the ground to visualize and understand all of the factors involved.

Very sincerely yours,


Dr. Alfred E. Stearns


Phillips Academy


April 2, 1926


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