SIU becomes first university-based mortuary science program with on-site crematory in the U.S.

SIU recently acquired the first university-housed crematory for its mortuary science and funeral services bachelor’s degree program.
Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 3:55 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 7, 2023 at 5:22 PM CST
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CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - SIU recently acquired the first university-housed crematory for its mortuary science and funeral services bachelor’s degree program.

According to a release from SIU Carbondale, the university is the only one in the state and only one of six in the country to offer this bachelor’s program. But with the new addition, the university becomes the first and only in the country that includes a crematory on its campus.

SIU’s mortuary science program will help address an anticipated shortage of funeral service industry workers in the next five years, according to the release.

Mortuary science and funeral service program director and associate professor Anthony Fleege said there has been a nationwide shift toward cremation.

“The U.S. cremation rate was 57.4% in 2022, meaning more than half of all final dispositions end in cremation rather than burial,” Fleege said. “While the Illinois cremation rate mirrors the national rate, some states are much higher, led by Nevada with 82%, so the need is great.”

Fleege pitched the idea of adding a crematory and the option for a crematory operator’s license at SIU, and the director of the School of health Sciences Scott Collins helped carry the plan forward according to the release. The unit from the Crematory Systems of South Holland is now in place at SIU.

According to Fleege, all of SIU’s mortuary science and funeral service graduates, from now on, will not only get hands-on training operating a crematory with the addition of a cremation class to the curriculum, but they will also complete school as a certified crematory operator as recognized by the Illinois comptroller’s office.

The release also said SIU will provide the crematory service as a public service for local coroners who occasionally must find a resolution for abandoned bodies, for a nominal maintenance fee. The crematory won’t offer services to the public or funeral homes.

There are 110 students currently enrolled in SIU’s program, according to the release, with nearly 100 on campus and the rest enrolled as online learners.

SIU sophomore in mortuary science and funeral service Emily Bender said the acquisition made her even happier with her choice to join the program.

“The crematory really gives me, as well as other students, confidence--the practice we will get from having an on-site crematory reaffirms we are capable of providing this service to families and doing it correctly just as soon as we enter the workforce,” Bender said. “This is another addition to SIU’s mortuary science program that allows students to be a step ahead.”

Fleege said the crematory project was a collaborative effort with support from Chancellor Austin A. Lane, Dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences Robert Morgan, Director of the School of Health Sciences Scott Collins, Facilities and Energy Management and others.