Published in the July 2021 Issue of Memento Mori  

by Jack E. Lechner Jr., CFSP 

“The definition of ‘insanity’ is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  

Cremation throughout the world, and even more so in North America, continues to grow. It is now the preferred method of disposition in North America. The partnership between Facultatieve Technologies (FT) and Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science (CCMS) will be setting the standard and leading the way for required certification or licensing of properly trained operators. 

The opinion of both CCMS and FT is that the methods currently used to certify crematory operators are just not good enough. The goal is to raise the bar and bring the crematory operator up to the level of a specialist, going beyond the current operator training programs to become certified or licensed as a cremationist.  

CCMS and FT, with the assistance of ICCFA’s educational program, will provide a complete platform that is based not only on classroom instruction but hands-on proper operation of all phases of the cremation process utilizing the latest technologies being offered in modern-day cremation system equipment.  

“I am so proud that our board of trustees had the vision to direct CCMS to build an Educational Cremation Center (ECC)and develop an advanced curriculum to address those evolving needs of client families,” says Jack Lechner, president and CEO of Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science. The ECC will provide detailed hands-on cremation training, alkaline hydrolysis, pet loss, and hospitality training. 

Partnering with ICCFA 

CCMS is on a firm financial footing and successfully implementing an initiative to transform deathcare education. To accomplish that, CCMS is partnering with ICCFA to deliver an Advanced Crematory Operator Program that will integrate hands-on training with best management practices for those already in the cremation or funeral profession. ICCFA believes in the programs so strongly that the partnership revenues will heavily favor CCMS.  

“It is great to have the endorsement from such a great professional and progressive association,” says Jack. “Some other associations were not interested, but ICCFA jumped at the chance to partner in this effort to provide advanced training. This endorsement speaks to the progressive nature of ICCFA and the commitment to providing expert advanced training opportunities.” 

A Curriculum Change 

The American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) prescribes a curriculum that all accredited mortuary programs must deliver for graduates to take the National Board Examination (NBE). The cremation outline is only five pages, while the embalming outline is 29 pages. Curricula are updated on a recurring basis, yet the cremation outline was last approved back in 2015. This outline makes up one of the three elements that the International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards (ICFSEB) will use to create cremation questions for the NBE. 

The curriculum outline addresses cremation as a form of disposition; and in the strictest sense, it is a form of disposition. But with 56.1% of the client families being served by funeral homes, it’s time to consider cremation as more than just a form of disposition.  

Understanding aspects of cremation’s history, identification, forms, FTC compliance, etc., are all important to know. Cremation is woven into different parts of the ABFSE curriculum but not in enough detail, given the fact that the majority of client families served today are opting for cremation—and cremation continues to increase. 

“The best way to predict the future is to build it.” —Peter Drucker 

It takes most mortuary programs about one year or three semesters to deliver the ABFSE curriculum, making it difficult to add too much to their programs outside the ABFSE curriculum. CCMS offers a Bachelor of Mortuary Science, which gives the school the luxury of developing its own curriculum for the fourth semester.  

The Educational Cremation Center will be built around a curriculum that provides the technical and ethical foundation for deathcare professionals. Its program will focus on including family, friends, and ceremony. Cremation is not just another form of final disposition selected based on price point alone. 

“Transformation is a process, not an event.” —John P. Kotter, Harvard Business School 

A Unique Initiative 

“Our Educational Cremation Center will be the first of its kind,” says Jack. “CCMS will become the nation’s premier provider of enhanced, hands-on, cremation education training. Work has already begun to build this $3.5 million state of the art facility, which serves as the center piece of our ‘transforming Deathcare Education’ initiative.  

“It will house a cremator for hands-on cremation training, a family viewing room with a slumber bed, a Pet-400 pet alkaline hydrolysis unit, hospitality training, and expanded pet loss training. All offerings will be available to entry-level students as well as advanced courses for licensed practitioners. 

Facultatieve Technologies, which manufactures the most advanced cremation system in the world, has contributed the FT-III cremator, hydraulic loader, and dust-less processing station valued at $280,000. 

By combining pet loss bereavement training with pet disposition, the ECC will be able to teach the science of alkaline hydrolysis while expanding CCMS’s pet loss curriculum. With alkaline hydrolysis legal in20 states and more pending, it is only a matter of time until every funeral profession will need to be familiar with alkaline hydrolysis. 

Becoming Future Forward 

“As I began reading the current copy of The Cremationist of North America, the first thing that jumped out at me was the “CANA Annual Statistics Report” where the data for 2020 revealed a national cremation rate of 56.1%,” says Jack. “When I entered the deathcare profession in 1973, the national cremation rate was 5.69% and it has been growing steadily over the past 48 years. In 2019, it was 54.6%. 

The CCMS campus that Jack heads is single purpose. Students and licensed professionals attend CCMS for entry-level education and continuing education after licensure. The students already perform over 500 embalmings per year, so there are plenty of hands-on opportunities for students to embalm in the school’s modern seven-embalming station lab. Students practice dressing, casketing, cosmetizing, arranging visitations, conducting visitations, and conducting funeral services. 

Cremation training classes offered by associations are very informative and packed with detailed technical aspects of cremation. But six to eight hours of PowerPoint, with no hands-on experience, may satisfy regulatory requirements to obtain a certificate but no one leaves one of those sessions fully pre-pared to run a crematory—let alone satisfy the cremation needs of a family.  

At CCMS, every BMS graduate leaves with credentials as an InSight ™ Certified Celebrant, a Certified Crematory Operator and Arranger, and certified to assist in Disaster Management. They also conduct a total dissection of a human cadaver in the school’s gross anatomy lab. The addition of the Educational Cremation Center will enhance all courses being taught and include continuing educational opportunities for licensed professionals.  

A Worthy Endeavor with Financing Needs 

In addition to the partnerships forged between FT-USA, CCMS, and ICCFA, the school has raised over $625,000 in cash and in-kind donations to support the ECC. CCMS has partnered with Welton Hong and Ring-Ring Marketing, which provides marketing efforts pro bono. In addition, Passare is being implemented on campus, pro bono, too. Passare’s web-based platform is included in the school’s preparation room to aid in chain of custody, capture embalming reports, and generate invoices. Passare is also part of CCMS’s Capstone program.  

There are still plenty of opportunities to be part of the future of deathcare education. CCMS is accepting cash and in-kind donations of equipment and services. There are still some room-naming rights opportunities available, including the naming rights to the ECC itself.  

“We are planning on opening the lobby space in the ECC for vendors to purchase the rights to install permanent displays of cremation-related items, including niches, jewelry, and other items that might normally be seen at a trade show or convention,” Jack adds. “This would give the vendor full-time exposure to the students and practitioners moving through the building all year.” 

If you are a CCMS alumni or a member of the deathcare profession who believes in the project and are interested in sponsoring a fundraising event in your city or state, please reach out and CCMS will guide you through the process.  

This project is a bold move to transform deathcare education to prepare more professionals to serve in the 21st century. “CMS is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) and profitmaking is not our objective,” Jack says. “Our mission is to make better entry-level practitioners and provide quality educational opportunities to licensed practitioners. We are 85% tuition supported. Join us to help improve the quality of cremation education while keeping tuition costs down. Consider donating your recyclable income to CCMS. You can help create the future. Now is the time to become a zealot or martyr!” 

Jack E. Lechner Jr., CFSP, a certified thanatologist, was appointed president and CEO of Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science in January 2016.