Letter from Dr. Alfred E. Stearns to Mr. C.Y. Sun, February 22, 1926


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Letter from Dr. Alfred E. Stearns to Mr. C.Y. Sun, February 22, 1926


Letter from Dr. Alfred E. Stearns to Mr. C.Y. Sun, February 22, 1926


Typed letter sent from Dr. Alfred E. Stearns to C.Y. Sun about Mary's education and school transfer. Made arrangements after receiving Sun's cablegram to prepare Mary for college. Transferred Mary to Whittier School in Merrimac, Massachusetts. States Mary was upset to be transferred from Abbot to Whittier and wrote letters to several people initially. Questions the decision to send Mary to college, as her previous course work didn't prepare her for college. Explains the reasoning behing his decisions regarding Mary and her education. Asks for advice in dealing with Mary and her education in the future.


22 February, 1926
Mr. C. Y. Sun
44 Cambridge Road
Tientsin, China

My dear Mr. Sun:

Upon the receipt of your recent cablegram, reading, “Prepare Mary for college”, I promptly started careful inquiries to ascertain the best available school where Mary could receive the special and intensive work which must now be had to enable her to achieve this end. As the result of these inquiries I selected a small home school, highly recommended and already somewhat familiar to me, known as Whittier School, in Merrimac, Massachusetts, a small country town about fifteen miles distant from Andover. When the selection had been made I sent for Mary, told her of your decision, and offered her the choice of going to the school in question or remaining at my home to work for the balance of the year with tutors chosen from our own teaching force, aided by a former teacher residing in the town. She chose the school, and the transfer was made the following day.

Mary was badly upset by the news and the sudden change of plan involved. She protested vigorously and tearfully against leaving Abbot Academy, and insisted that I ought not to take the proposed step, which she felt sure you would not sanction if you understood all the conditions involved. Miss Clemons and I did our best to quiet her and make her we that no other course was open in view of your explicit instructions, which had been sent after the receipt of my earlier letter to you in which I had endeavored to explain carefully and in detail all that was involved if the change were to be made. Knowing that the change would be hard at best for Mary, I felt that the more promptly it could be made the less would be her distress in the end, for I knew that her friends at Abbot, including her teachers, would naturally console with her and unconsciously strengthen her own feelings that she was being harshly dealt with. To guard her against that I asked Mrs. Russell, the Principal of the Wittier School, to withhold from Mary for a couple of days the letters of sympathy, etc. which I felt sure would follow her from Abbot Academy and add only to Mary’s excitement. At the end of that period all of the letters, of which there were many, were forwarded to Mary, as I had planned at the outset to have them.

I mention these details because 1 know that Mary’s first reaction was one of intense resentment and that she wrote at once to her brothers, to the Legation at Washington, and to others, protesting at what had been done and intimating, apparently, that you would not have sanctioned my action have you fully understood the situation. I kept in touch with Mrs. Russell by telephone and urged her to do everything she could to make Mary comfortable and happy and to bring her to realize that your authority in the matter was final, your decision proper, and my action absolutely necessary in view of your definite instructions by cable to me. From Mrs. Russell, and to-day from Mary herself, I have gathered that the first shock has largely worn off, that Mary is hard at work and evidently much more contented than she was at first. In justice to Mary I feel that it is only fair to say that I consider her first reaction perfectly natural and that it would not be fair to blame her too severely for it. As I intimated in my earlier letter to you, the change was a drastic one and the significance of it could not easily be at once interpreted by the one who was thus forced to sever abruptly all connections and friendships and start
again among strangers in another school. I felt sure then, and feel surer now, that this reaction should not be considered permanent, and that in a very short time Mary would adjust herself to the new surroundings, and with increasing content and peace of mind.

To-day Arthur came out to see me, at my request, stayed to lunch, and talked over with me very fully and freely the entire situation. While he was there we called Mary on the telephone and Arthur himself talked with her frankly. Arthur apparently agrees fully that what has been done is what you desire, and has assured Mary that it was the proper and only thing to do under the circumstances. I think he feels as strongly as I do that Mary is already in a much better frame of mind, and that she will bend herself to the new tasks and adjust herself to the new conditions rapidly and rightly. Arthur, however, is inclined to share my own feelings, those of Miss Clemons, who has followed Mary pretty closely in her work, and those expressed, too, by Miss Bailey, Principal of Abbot Academy, that it is a serious question whether Mary has the proper qualifications to make a college course for her practicable and wise. In some of the subjects, at least, required for admission to a good college (and I assume, of course, that you would not be willing to consider a second-rate college), Mary finds the greatest difficulty Arthur tells me that when he tried to teach her Algebra a short time ago, it seemed next to impossible to make her understand the first principles of the subject. On the other hand she is extremely domestic and has evident talent along those lines. I think that is one reason why Mary has always intimated that she would like to study nursing, something that to-day many of our best girls in this country are taking up for serious study.

I confess that I have been terribly puzzled over the whole problem. The subjects which Mary has been taking to round out the general course at Abbot Academy, and which would have permitted her to take her diploma in that course this coming June, are not in the main those required by the colleges for admission; hence her work from now on must he of a very different character. I have asked Mrs. Russell to watch Mary as closely as she can and tell me frankly within the next few weeks what she herself feels as to Mary’s qualifications to prepare for admission to college and carry later successfully the college course. If Mrs. Russell comes to feel, as some of the rest of us are inclined to do without, perhaps, full and proper data on which to base our somewhat hazy conclusions, that Mary ought not to attempt to go on to college, I shall hardly know what to do next. In talking the situation over with Arthur to-day we were both inclined to feel that if the college proposition should prove to be impracticable and a nursing or home economics course from your point of view undesirable, Mary should perhaps have a year or two in one of the very best of our American schools, chiefly for the contacts and cultural influences that such a school would afford. There are several such schools in this country, but I have not considered them seriously in the past, chiefly because they are excessively expensive, involving an annual outlay of from $2500 to $3000 per year per pupil a sum which it seems to me would be beyond what you would naturally feel ought to be invested. Perhaps my judgment has erred in this respect, but it has at least been formed on the basis of a very careful consideration on my part of all the factors involved and of a further belief that you would have reached the same decision yourself under the same circumstances. Where I may have erred chiefly up to this time has been through my understanding that Mary would return to China this coming year, and that therefore her American education was to have been completed so far as possible before that time. As I wrote in my former letter, the suggestion of a later college course came to me comparatively recently, and hence did not enter into the consideration of the earlier plans decided upon.

I am writing you fully at this time because I have reason to fear that Mary in her first reaction to the new situation may have sent you, direct or through the Legation, at Washington, word that would naturally have been very much colored by her feelings at the time, and which I feel sure would have taken on a different color had she sent such a messages to-day , and probably even a brighter hue were she to send it a bit later. Her statement on the telephone to-day to both me and Arthur was to the effect that the new school was all right, that she liked her schoolmates, etc. but that she still wanted to return to China, I hope, therefore, that if you have received a message from her previous to the receipt of this letter, you will consider it in the light of what I have just written, and will not do unduly disturbed by its character. Unless Mary misled both Arthur and myself, she would not, I feel sure, send a message of quite the same character to-day, and I am very hopeful that we can within a reasonable time report her as contented and happy under the new regime.

I hope that in your next letter to me you will feel perfectly free to tell me very frankly exactly what courses I should adopt with Susy from now on. Please take into consideration the possibility that those who are now undertaking to prepare Mary for colleges may agree with Miss Bailey and others that Mary is not adapted to college work and ought not, therefore, to be forced to attempt it. If this is the final and combined judgement of us all, we must then plan carefully for the next and wisest east step, and we shall certainly need definite advice and instructions from you. I have tried to outline the possibilities so that we may so far as possible work in complete sympathy and harmony in the matter and adopt a plan which has been decided upon only after all the conditions and ramifications that enter into the problem have been fully considered and estimated at their relative values. My sole desire is to carry out your wishes and to do only what I should feel you would desire to do yourself were you actually on the ground here and able to view the situation from the same angle.

I might add that the Wittier School has been thoroughly endorsed by a number of responsible educators whom I have consulted, who know of its work and its product, and who tell me that it does exceptionally effective work in the preparation of its pupils for college. It is a home school, rather old-fashioned in its type, and to my mind all the better for that, with a distinctly cultural and Christian atmosphere. Mrs. Bussell is a motherly woman of high ideals and refinement, and strongly opposed to the modern and superficial tendencies and social excesses so strongly prevalent in the majority of our American girls’ schools to-day. Mary will therefore some under closer and in my judgment wholesome supervision than she has had heretofore, while at the same time she will be guided in her studies by those who are thoroughly familiar with the requirements for admission set by our best colleges, and who are in the habit of preparing their girls to meet the same.

Please excuse this extremely long letter, but I cannot help feeling that the situation in such that you are entitled to know all of the circumstances and details which have been taken into consideration by me in handling this somewhat difficult and in a way very perplexing problem. I can only hope that I have not in any way, and unintentionally, abused the confidence which have so generously reposed in me, though I must admit in dealing with the case of a girl I feel my limitations more strongly than I do in dealing with boys, whose problems are a little more familiar, though even then not always easily solved.

Believe me, with warm regard and esteem.

Very sincerely yours,


Dr. Alfred E. Stearns


Phillips Academy


February 22, 1926


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