Wayne State University

Making a difference in the lives of those grieving a death

Making a difference in the lives of those grieving a death
Mortuary science student Kelly Leaman received a scholarship from the Michigan Funeral Directors Association (MFDA).

One year sticks out in Kelly Leaman’s mind when she explains why she chose to become a funeral director. She was 9 years old, and her family lost three close friends and relatives in the span of one year, making Leaman acutely aware of the experience of death and the process of funeral planning.

“That was a pretty rough year in my family history,” she said. “It was frustrating because I wasn’t involved in the process, and I wanted to help and be included. Now that I’m older, I’m able to help those people who are going through a death.”

According to Leaman, being a funeral director is a calling. It takes a kind of person who has a certain openness toward death and bereavement. Leaman’s calling led her to Wayne State’s nationally renowned mortuary science program, where she has found thoughtful professors, strong mentors and diverse classmates.

“There are many customs and traditions we need to be aware of because we will serve families of different races, ethnicities and religions,” she said. “Having people from all over the state helps bring a new perspective and awareness to help better serve our families.”

Many of the state’s current funeral directors attended Wayne State, so the mortuary science program has longstanding relationships with funeral homes across the region.

“There are very deep ties from Wayne State to Michigan funeral directors,” Leaman said. “It’s so fun to look at the previous class pictures and find all the people you work with.”

This close-knit community has resulted in a strong partnership between Wayne State’s mortuary science program and the Michigan Funeral Directors Association (MFDA), which provided Leaman with a scholarship.

“MFDA has supported me in many ways,” she said. “We have a mentoring program and my mentor is the immediate past president of MFDA, so he has helped answer a lot of questions.”

Instrumental in securing the MFDA scholarship at Wayne State was MFDA Past President Timothy Schramm ’89, a member of the mortuary science program’s Advisory Board, as well as the Board of Visitors for the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

“So much of the past and certainly the future of funeral directors in Michigan begins with Wayne State,” said Schramm. “The MFDA understands how important it is to support the next generation of professionals in our field, and to give back to a school that gave us so much as burgeoning funeral directors.”  

Although Leaman’s future career is challenging work, she noted just how important it is for families to have a caring funeral director.

“When people experience a death in their lives, it’s often a very confusing time. They don’t know what the next steps are,” she said. “They’re turning to their funeral professional for guidance and answers but also comfort and support. You can go home at the end of the day and be completely exhausted, but you know you’ve done a good thing and made a difference in their lives.”

(July 27, 2016)

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