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Executive Education alumni respond to need for masks in Syracuse

April 9, 2020

A sample of donated masks and packages piling up while awaiting redistribution.Prompted by a single social media request from the Maxwell School community, more than 100 Chinese alumni of the School’s Executive Education Program have shipped donations of medical masks to Central New York. One notable donation arrived from an eight-year-old boy, who had visited Syracuse recently, after his father had previously completed a week-long training program at Maxwell.

According to Xueyi Chen, who directs Executive Education’s China Program, the effort began when her neighbor, an area physician, mentioned the need for masks in nursing homes, and a handful of Maxwell students assembled a small donation. Knowing that many Executive Education alums, as part of their curriculum, visited a local senior living center, Chen posted on WeChat about the need. 

According to Chen, no one anticipated the scale of the response. As of April 7, Maxwell alumni in China had shipped or pledged more than 30,000 masks. Donors include government officials from Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Jiangsu Province; and students and former visiting scholars from more than a dozen universities across the country. “They mostly ship masks in small boxes as private gifts, since larger shipments will be counted as commercial exports and thus slowed in transit," says Chen. “A number of the former participants are sending multiple boxes.”

The dozens of donations collected in piles at Chen’s house, before eventual distribution to nursing homes and home-care services in Syracuse. Others were delivered directly to those centers. Among them, the most poignant was sent by Stephen Han, whose father, Xufeng Han, an administrative assistant for the East China Regional Air Traffic Management Bureau in Shanghai, had visited Maxwell as an MPA student of the Shanghai Administrative Institute. Eight-year-old Stephen sent the following letter with his donation, addressed to two senior living centers, Menorah Park and Loretto Health & Rehabilitation.


My name is Stephen Han. I am 8 years old. I am a primary school student and I live in Shanghai. This is the first time I have written in English with the help of my dad. I am very happy to write to you.

At present, COVID-19 is spreading all over the world. I learned from the TV news that the virus is spreading very fast in New York State and I am very sad. My dad told me that he heard from Dr. Chen that there is a very short supply of masks in Syracuse. So my dad and I bought some masks in Shanghai with the help of friends. Due to the current actual situation and national restrictions, we can only deliver no more than 100 masks to the United States.

Xufeng and Stephen Han prepare to send their donations from Shanghai to Syracuse.In 2017, my dad used to go to Syracuse University for short-term training. In June 2019, my dad took me and my mother to travel to the United States. We came to Syracuse specifically. Syracuse has left me unforgettable memories. The campus of Syracuse University is very beautiful, there are a lot of goods to buy in Destiny, the scenery of Green Lake State Park is really beautiful, and my favorite hot dog Heid’s locate[d] in Liverpool is very delicious. I really want to grow up and come back to the beautiful Syracuse again.

Finally, I wish you all the best, and hope that all friends in Syracuse can safely go through this difficult time.


Stephen Han


Said Chen, speaking on behalf of a small team of Executive Education staff who have worked to accept and redistribute the gifts, “We always imagine that our programs have global reach. So many of our students come here from around the world. But this amazing response to the coronavirus emergency confirms Maxwell’s belief in global community.”


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