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Southeast’s Funeral Service Program only one in state; first class set to graduate in May

Steve Miller with new equipmentSteve Miller is honored to be playing a key role as an instructor while the growth of the Funeral Service Program at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College continues at a quick pace. The program began accepting students a year ago and is the only one of its kind within Kentucky. It features a two-year curriculum leading to the Associate’s Degree, and excitement for the future of the ground-breaking program is profound, offering a curriculum overseen by Denise Shumate, long-time professor and administrator.

Currently, Miller and Shumate are working with 14 students with 10 on track to graduate in May. Students enrolled in the SKCTC program range in ages 18 to 45, and the program is rapidly becoming a popular curriculum at the college. The Funeral Service Program is the only such program within Kentucky, with the closest being offered in Cincinnati and Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Miller, who was reared in Southern Illinois, worked 17 years in the coal mining industry, laboring in a slope mine near his home in El Dorado. He also drove a truck for several years before acting on a long-time yearning to attend mortuary school. He parked the 18-wheeler and enrolled at the John A. Gupton School or Mortuary Science in Nashville graduating in 1994. He would also attend and graduate from Southeastern Illinois College. He holds a Master’s Degree from Tusculum College in Tennessee.

Over the past 12 years, he worked for several mortuaries in Indiana and Tennessee before finding his way to Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College where he is a member of the fledgling program.

“I love my job at Southeast,” he said. “I’m so proud to be working with Denise Shumate as we develop the program and train a new generation of morticians. Teaching is something I have wanted to do for the past decade, and I jumped at the chance to come to Harlan County and to Southeast where we are working hard to make the program succeed -- to be effective.”

The program at Southeast is a two-year endeavor where students are required to earn a total of 68 credits. Those who wish to be considered for entry into the program are required to submit an official application to SKCTC, official high school transcript as well as transcripts of all post-secondary education along with ACT or SAT or ASSET or COMPASS tests results.

Applicants are also required to have a pre-admission conference with the faculty.

Miller noted the objectives of the program are to instill in the student the highest ethical, professional and technical standards required for entry into the profession. The course has been designed to make the student aware of federal, state and local regulatory guidelines that govern practices in the funeral services profession.

As the program moves forward, Miller is excited when he discusses the features of a newly-completed facility to be utilized in the students’ education. The site, located on the lower level of Falkenstine Hall, features a preparation room with state-of-the-art equipment, including two embalming tables and two Dodge embalming machines. The site also features a rail body lift structure as well as a revolutionary air ventilation system.

Construction of the teaching space is basically completed and will soon be in use upon inspection by state agencies. Additionally, there is a funeral merchandising room on the premises.

“Students will be pleased with the top-of-the-line facilities as we work to train individuals who will soon become leaders within the funeral industry,” he said. “The program at Southeast is developing and is a workable option for many who wish to serve as funeral service personnel within their communities, and for those who want to offer an important and a caring service to families who are distraught and likely to be in a most vulnerable condition.”

Prospective students wishing to pursue a career in the SKCTC Funeral Service Program are requested to contact Ms. Shumate, director of the program, or Mr. Miller, by phoning (606)248-3141 or at denise.shumate@kctcs.edu or smiller0406@kctcs.edu.