Letter from Dr. Alfred E. Stearns to Hon. Alfred Sze, February 18, 1926


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Letter from Dr. Alfred E. Stearns to Hon. Alfred Sze, February 18, 1926


Letter from Dr. Alfred E. Stearns to Hon. Alfred Sze, February 18, 1926


Typed letter sent from Dr. Alfred E. Stearns to Sao-Ke Alfred Sze about Stearns' decisions regarding Mary's education. Explains Mary attending Abbott Academy 2 years based on the assumption she would gain a diploma and return to China. Heard rumors from the Sun children that Mr. Sun prefers Mary attend college. Preferred Mary finish at Abbot, take additional prep courses, then attend college. Received letter and cablegram from Mr. Sun to prepare Mary for college, specifically Wellesley, or other first-rate college. Prompted Stearns to find a suitable school, Whittier, to prepare Mary, resulting in the transfer. States the transfer distressed Mary. Admits the situation troubles Stearns as well. Also explains letters to Mary were witheld the first few days after the transfer, to help Mary adjust. States the letters were forwarded after those few days. Reports Mary appears to be adjusting to the new school.


February 18, 1926

Hon.Alfred Sze
Chinese Legation
Washington D.C.

My dear Dr.Sze:

I forwarded to you a day or two ago, by registered mail and at Mary Sun’s request, a letter in which I assume Mary expressed to you her dissatisfaction with the most arrangement which I felt it necessary to xx for her further schooling. I cannot blame Mary at all for feeling as she does, for I am a good bit distressed and puzzled myself. In view, however, of definite cabled instructions from Mr. sun to prepare Mary for college, I could not see how the step taken could be avoided, and I am writing only to explain my position.

For the past two years Mary has been a student at Abbot Academy, taking the general and not the college course, and with the expectation of securing her diploma in this course this coming June. I had always understood from Mr. Sun and from other children that on the completion of her school work in this country was to return to China. For this reason, and for the added reason that the college work seemed a bit too hard for the girl, the general course was selected.

About a year ago I began to hear rumors from the children that Mr. Sun might desire Mary to go on to college. Numerous inquiries brought me no definite information, though finally in a letter from Mr. Sun under date of September 4, 1925, this statement is made:

“With reference to the choice of school to which Mary should join after she finish her studies in Abbot, many of my friends have told me that Wellesley will be a very desirable college for her.”

In answer to this I replied:

“The new school year is well under way. Mary should complete her course at Abbot Academy next June. If she is to go on to college, as you initiate, my preference will be for Mount Holykole or Wellesley.”

The above was written on the assumption, of course, that Mary would required further preparation, and that Mr. Sun himself had not fully made up his mind to the desirability of the advanced college work. I did not feel it wise for Mary to change schools again, in middle of the year.

From that time on, further and somewhat stronger intimation come to me from the children that college for Mary was becoming a mere definite issue in her father’s mind. I also gathered that the extra year or two of preparation would prove distasteful to both Mr.Sun and Mary and that Mary herself was hoping to enter some so-called college of inferior grade that would not require further preparation. Knowing something about American institutions of this class, I could not believe that Mr.Sun would approve of any such course, and I frankly told Mary so. It was and still is my opinion that in speaking of “college” Mr.Sun had definitely in mind a college of the first rank, and not a college in name only. Consequently, and with these ideas in my mind, I wrote Mr. Sun at considerable length and in detail just before Christmas, asking for definite instructions as to the course I was to pursue in order to carry out his wishes. I explained very fully that they general course Mary was now taking would not permit her to enter a good college, and that further preparation of a year at least, and perhaps more, would be required. I told him, further, that if college was to be the definite goal, I should doubtless feel it necessary to sever at once Mary’s connection with her present school, Abbot Academy, and place her either in a small school or with a tutor where intensive work in preparation for college admission could be had. I explained that such a course would be drastic and upsetting, and in view of this fact I did not feel justified in adopting it without Mr.Sun’s full approval. I asked Mr.Sun, therefore, if he would carefully consider the facts I had stated and write me fully and definitely what I should do.

Several days ago, and prompted by the receipt of my letter, Mr.Sun cabled me the brief messages, - “Prepare Mary for college”. I confess that the message distressed me a good bit, for I did not like the idea of making another change only two or three months before Mary would have completed the Abbot course, but under the circumstances and in view of the detail with which I had explained in my letter to Mr. Sun, I could see no alternative but to support the decision and follow instructions. I took several days to search carefully and make numerous inquiries among college and school authorities as to a suitable school, and finally decided on the Whittier School at Merrimac, about fifteen miles from here, a home school of some twenty-five or thirty girls with a distinctly cultured and Christian atmosphere, and where I am told excellent work can be counted on. Then I made the change, the purposely rather abruptly because it seemed to me that Mary’s distress would only be intensified if the strain was prolonged. I also withheld from Mary for the first two days a flood of letters from her former schoolmates and teachers, the receipt of which at the very outset of the new venture would only have been disconcerting. This I explained to Mary by telephone, and forwarded all the letters in question that same day. I mention this last merely because Mary showed in a note which she wrote to me that she felt that unduly severe measures were being taken by me, but for what reason she could not seemingly understand.

I am really very troubled over the whole situation, for I cannot help feeling that Mary is perfectly justified in being greatly distressed over the sudden and unexpected turn in affairs, and yet I cannot see how I could have acted otherwise in view of Mr.Sun’s definite instructions. Had I been able to talk with Mr.Sun in person and explain all the ins and outs, I have no doubt that we could have come to a mutually satisfactory decision as to the best course to pursue. The long distance between us and the extensive time which most elapse between the sending and receipt of letter complicate the problem immensely. It has been very hard, therefore, for me to reach satisfactory decisions and to carry them out, feeling, as I do, that the wisest setps may not always been taken in this way and that a clearer understanding on my part of Mr.Sun’s exact wishes and a clearer understanding on his part of the factors and complications involved at this end would very probably prompt us to decisions somewhere different from these arrived at.

I hope you will pardon this long and somewhat detailed letter, but since Mary has evidently placed her case before you, I think it is only fair that you should understand the reasons for the action which Mary herself could hardly regard with anything but questionings and distress. The last report I had from the school indicates that Mary’s intense reaction has lessened distinctly and I hope and believe that within a reasonable time she will enjoy the new surroundings and friends and be able to settle down to definite and hard work of preparing for college in accordance with her father’s expressed wishes.

With personal regards and the assurance of my readiness to consider carefully any suggestions you may feel disposed to make in this matter, believe me,

Very sincerely yours,


Dr. Alfred E. Stearns


Phillips Academy


February 18, 1926


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