Late last year, Xinhua News interviewed International Business School Suzhou’s Dr Ellen Touchstone about her and her family’s deep connection with Suzhou.

Dr Touchstone is the Senior Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Responsible and Sustainable Business Education at IBSS. She has been living in China for more than 10 years.

“When I received a job offer from Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in 2012, I jumped at the chance because 100 years ago, my grandparents, Cary Touchstone and Mabel Ellen Thomas came to Suzhou separately. They fell in love, got married and started a family.”

Thomas came to China in February 1917, and worked as the head nurse at Soochow University’s First Affiliated Hospital. Touchstone came to China in December of the same year, and worked as the Bursar and English Secretary to the President of Soochow University. Two years later, they got married by the US Consul General in Shanghai.

Talking about the lifestyle in Suzhou, Dr Touchstone especially likes visiting the gardens.

“Suzhou is known for its beautiful gardens, and it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site,” she says. “The gardens are very peaceful, serene, and quiet. I wonder if my grandparents who were here 100 years ago, maybe they also came to this garden.”

Inspired by her grandmother, Dr Touchstone has become a firm believer in volunteering.

In February 2022, she volunteered at a Covid testing site in Suzhou Industrial Park, explaining the procedures to international people living nearby in English, German and French. This news was widely reported by Chinese and international media.

“It was a very rewarding experience,” she says. “It also makes me think about the continuity of my family’s legacy. My grandmother was the head nurse. Being a volunteer would be something that she would have done during her time.”

By Xinmin Han
Edited by Patricia Pieterse

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