The longest teaching professor at the Northern Marianas College, Barry Wonenberg, passed away yesterday. He was 58 years old.
Sources said Wonenberg suffered from a heart attack at about 6:30am yesterday. The actual time of his passing has yet to be confirmed.
NMC president Dr. Carmen Fernandez expressed sympathy while recognizing Wonenberg’s talents and accomplishments.
“Barry Wonenberg [was] an extraordinarily talented artist and one of the most beloved instructors at Northern Marianas College. He was a great asset to our college and we will miss him dearly,” said Fernandez.
“He was NMC’s longest serving instructor, and his contributions to the college and his dedication to student learning will not be forgotten,” she added. “We plan to commemorate his life with a tribute ceremony to be announced at a later date.”
“His sculptures and other works of arts have been recognized locally and internationally, and his active involvement in the arts and humanities earned him the respect and admiration of the CNMI community,” added Fernandez.
“Please keep Barry and the family in your thoughts and prayers,” said Fernandez, addressing NMC students through email.
Wonenberg also served as a board member of the Northern Marianas Humanities Council.
NMHC board chair Frankie Eliptico said NMHC lost a valuable partner with Wonenberg’s passing.
“Because of his incredible talent and wealth of knowledge, we always valued Barry’s insight and vision on the Humanities board,” said Eliptico. “The Humanities has lost a great advocate and we have lost a good friend and colleague.”
“He was a phenomenal artist whose creative brilliance influenced many students and other painters, sculptors, and designers in the CNMI and elsewhere,” he added.
Among the most pained by Wonenberg’s passing was his best friend, Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Robert Hunter.
“He was my best friend in the world. Barry loved Saipan; he is a great human being. Barry loved the people here and was a great dad. He was also the longest serving instructor of NMC. It’s a big loss. It’s a sad day for me and a sad day for a lot of people,” said Hunter.
Hunter recalls being with Wonenberg the night before his untimely death.
“It was totally surprising. I was with him last night until about 8:30pm and he was just fine. It was a shock to everybody that morning,” recalled Hunter.
Wonenberg taught arts at NMC for 25 years. He had a Bachelor of Arts from Boise State University and Masters in Education from Framingham State College. He specialized in teaching ceramics, sculpting, and bronze casting at NMC.
Wonenberg also represented the CNMI at the 9th, 11th, and 12th Annual International Sculpture Symposium, an international sculpting competition in China.
He was also an illustrator of CNMI history textbooks. Several of Wonenberg’s large scale sculptures remain on permanent exhibit at the International Sculptors Symposium in China and he also represented the CNMI at several Festival of the Pacific Arts.