Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, was established in 1778. It is a coeducational boarding high school with approximately 1,100 students and more than 200 faculty. Noted for the rigor and quality of its academic offerings, it is distinguished by the talent and diversity of its students. International students comprise 10 percent of the student body. Although Phillips Academy students hail from 25 nations, the largest contingent of international students is from China. This is fitting, for Andover’s direct links to China began more than 130 years ago. During the past 40 years, Phillips Academy has enriched its course offerings to include Chinese language and culture within its curriculum and supports ongoing programs involving travel to China for students and faculty.
In the language of its Constitution, Phillips Academy “shall be ever equally open to youth from every quarter.” For a century, this breadth of opportunity was defined largely in economic terms yet, even in the 18th century, a few international students attended Andover. The first organized contingent of students from beyond the United States came in 1878 and 1879 when 11 Chinese boys entered Phillips Academy under the auspices of the Chinese government in a program known as the Chinese Educational Mission. Several of these students went on to distinguished careers including Liang Cheng, who served as Chinese Minister to the United States and Germany.
Because he knew and loved this school, Liang initiated a second, educational mission, the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship Program between the United States government and Chinese government, to the United States in 1908 through which most Chinese students attended American universities; only a few came to Phillips Academy Andover and Phillips Exeter Academy.
In a third wave, Chinese boys and girls attended Phillips Academy and neighboring Abbot Academy from 1903 to 1930 through the personal efforts of Andover’s headmaster, Alfred Stearns. Study abroad generated enormous interest during this era in China, and the World Chinese Students Federation was organized in Shanghai in 1905. Twice in these years the U.S. branch of the Federation held its annual conference at Phillips Academy. Writing in 1920, Headmaster Stearns noted that “China is not the only gainer by this intimate contact of East and West. Nothing could be better…than this free mingling during impressionable years of the youth of these two great nations. A unique opportunity is offered this old American school to aid in breaking down those barriers of race prejudice and selfish provincialism that keep nations and men from accepting a true human brotherhood.”
The present era of renewed interaction between China and Phillips Academy began in the 1960s with the first Chinese language program at the Academy. It continued in the 1970s with efforts to create a new exchange program. This initiative, encouraged by President George H.W Bush (a Phillips Academy grad¬uate who in the mid-1970s was chief of the United States Liaison Office in the People’s Republic of China), was consummated in 1980 with the signing of an agreement between the Academy and the Harbin Institute of Technology. The school’s special focus on China was advanced by a remarkable initiative: a series of Andover faculty trips to China sponsored by the President of the Board of Trustees Oscar L. Tang. Today, Andover has one of the largest and finest Chinese language programs of any U.S. secondary school, with approximately 200 students currently enrolled in Chinese language courses.
President Hu Jintao, during his 2006 visit to the United States, cited education as a fundamental aspect of Chinese-American relations. He stated emphatically, “Exchanges in culture and education and among young people serve as a bridge for increasing mutual understanding between our two peoples. They are also a major driving force for the healthy and stable growth of China-U.S. relations.” In the quest for this goal, Phillips Academy has played and continues to play a significant and useful role. May the historic links between China and Phillips Academy flourish and continue to grow.