Bernhardt John Wuensch.

Bernhardt John Wuensch, 90

April 12, 2024

Bernhardt John Wuensch (Bernie), age 90, passed away peacefully on April 3, 2024, with his wife of 64 years, Mary Jane, by his side. 

Bernie grew up in Paterson, New Jersey, graduating from Eastside High School in 1951 before heading to college at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There he found both a community and an intellectual home, and he never left. Bernie earned all his degrees from MIT: the S.B. (1955) and S.M. (1957) in Physics and the Ph.D. (1963) in Crystallography. 

In 1964, after spending a year at the University of Bern in Switzerland, he joined the MIT Department of Metallurgy as Assistant Professor of Ceramics and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1969 and full Professor in 1974. An expert in X-ray crystallography and transport phenomena in complex perovskite oxides, Bernie integrated his research into the classroom, encouraging students to look for symmetry and structure all around them. 

During his almost 50 years on the MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering faculty, Bernie served on innumerable Institute and departmental committees. He was director of the Center for Materials Science and Engineering from 1988 to 1993 and spent six months as acting DMSE Department Head in 1980. In 2003, he received an honorary Doctorate in Engineering from Hanyang University, Seoul, Korea. 

Bernie was most proud of being honored twice with the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award from MIT and with the Outstanding Educator Award from the American Ceramic Society. He is well-known for the course: 3.60, Symmetry, Structure, and Tensor Properties of Materials — a graduate subject that he offered for over three decades — which was recorded for MIT OpenCourseWare in 2005 and can still be watched online in its entirety. Bernie loved teaching and found immense joy in working with and mentoring students. He retired in 2011 to Professor Emeritus, but kept working daily until 2013 in his legendary office in MIT Building 13.

Bernie met his wife, Mary Jane, at Trinity Church in Boston in 1957 and they were married there in 1960. They were very active at Trinity for decades, with Bernie serving on the Vestry for many years, until joining St. Anne’s in Lincoln in 1993. In the early years of their relationship, Bernie and Mary Jane rode their beloved Lambretta motorscooter everywhere. They moved to Concord in 1967 and lived in their cape on the river for nearly 50 years before moving to Newbury Court in 2013. 

In addition to his work at MIT, Bernie had many other passions at which he excelled with scientific precision, including cultivating orchids and collecting rare coins, minerals, and gemstones. He also excelled at fishing and clamming in Maine, splitting his own firewood, enjoying a good German beer (even when that beer had to carried up a mountain in his “rucksack”), making cheese fondue every Christmas, telling long-winded but excellent stories, reading spy novels, and traveling the world with Mary Jane. They returned many times to their favorite places in and around Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, and on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i. 

Bernie is survived by his wife, Mary Jane Wuensch of Concord; son, Stefan Wuensch and wife, Wendy Joseph, of Lynn; and daughter Katrina Wuensch, partner Jason Staly, and grandchildren Noemi and Jack, of Groton. 

The family extends their deepest gratitude to the staff of The Gardens at Newbury Court for their compassionate care of Bernie over the past five years.

A memorial service for family and friends will be held at the Duvall Chapel, 80 Deaconess Rd, Concord, on Sunday, April 28 at 1:30 p.m.

Arrangements under the care of Concord Funeral Home, Concord,