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New book pays tribute to Agnes McPhetres

RETIRED educator Ivan Propst’s new book about former Northern Marianas College president Agnes M. McPhetres was launched on Thursday at American Memorial Park.

“Perseverance and Grit: The Contributions of Agnes Manglona McPhetres to Education Across the Pacific” is a collection of writings of friends and acquaintances from various stages of McPhetres’ career as an educator.

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Ivan Propst talks about his new book which is about Agnes M. McPhetres’ contributions to education.  Photo by Lori Lyn C. Lirio

“This recognizes you for what you have done — this is our gift to you,” Propst told McPhetres at the book-launch event.

Propst said “perseverance and grit” characterize McPhetres and what she has done over the years, not just in the CNMI and Micronesia but across the Pacific.

“One of her goals was to make NMC an institution that could offer a baccalaureate degree,” Propst said.

In 2001, two years after McPhetres retired as NMC president, the college started offering a baccalaureate degree in education.

“She never gives up,” Propst said. “She works to find different ways of doing things instead of the same old ways. She thinks outside the box. She improved the life of everybody through education.”

Propst worked closely with McPhetres, particularly at NMC from 1986 to 1997.

At the college, he served as an instructor, dean of arts and sciences, dean of instruction, accreditation liaison officer, and special assistant to the vice president.

One of the things that the CNMI lacks is a record of what people have done, Propst said.

McPhetres, who is now chief executive officer of the Northern Marianas Technical Institute, “has so much in terms of contributions to the quality of life through what she is doing now and what she has done over the years. I wanted to put that in print, not just for us but for the future generation who will be able to read about what she did,” Propst added.

“I built this book piece by piece and brought things together… All this stuff is put together in a public record so the researchers in the future will be able to look it.”

In an interview, McPhetres said she continues to focus on education because she wants to develop the CNMI’s human resources.

“We have nothing here in the CNMI. We don’t have gold. We don’t have diamonds, but we have people,” she added.

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Agnes McPhetres and Ivan Propst sign copies of  the book  “Perseverance and Grit: The Contributions of Agnes Manglona McPhetres to Education Across the Pacific” on Thursday at American Memorial Park.  Photo by David Butterfield

Northern Marianas Humanities Council Executive Director Leo Pangelinan said the book “captures a lot of the history…of NMC and NMTI and what the educational system was and how it developed from the Trust Territory time to the earliest days of the Commonwealth.”

He added, “I had worked 10 years at the college but I still learned a lot about NMC by reading the book.”

Copies of “Perseverance and Grit: The Contributions of Agnes Manglona McPhetres to Education Across the Pacific” are available at the NMC library, the Joeten-Kiyu Public Library and NMTI.

Publication of the book was made possible through support from the Northern Marianas Humanities Council, a nonprofit, private corporation funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.