Mortuary science to visit museum, body farm

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Mortuary science sophomores Samantha Gomez and Jimmy Sandoval prepare instruments before working on cadavers Sept. 25 in Nail. Gomez said they will flip the cadaver in the tank, where they keep them, to dissect. File

The program’s April 5 trip to Houston will be open to anyone.

Rogelio Escamilla

The mortuary science program is planning visits to a funeral museum and the state’s body farm in the spring.

The trip to Houston to visit the National Museum of Funeral History April 5 will be open to anyone, mortuary science Professor Darrell Woody said.

The cost and number of people who can go have not been determined. 

Other activities on the trip will be tours of the ceremonial Chung Mei Buddhist Temple, George H. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home and dinner at a local restaurant. 

Woody said visiting the Buddhist temple would tie into the program’s learning goals.

“One of our goals is to teach students about different cultures,” he said. “We don’t just teach one religion’s rituals. For example, Buddhist tradition only practices cremation in most cases to allow for reincarnation, unless it’s someone like Jeffrey Dahmer, who they would not cremate so that he would be trapped in that body forever.”

The trip to the Forensic Anthropology Research Facility at Texas State University’s Freeman Ranch, more commonly known as “Texas State Body Farm,” will be Feb. 15.

The trip will be available only to advanced students enrolled in embalming course MRTS 2445, Technical Procedures 1; and MRTS 2447, Technical Procedures 2, which focuses on reconstruction and preparation techniques.

Dozens of bodies are placed in various conditions and positions at the farm for researchers to study decomposition. About 150 donor bodies have been studied at the 26-acre ranch since it opened in 2008. 

“We want to give students a look at how bodies decompose,” student success generalist Cynthia Escatel said. “That way they get a real understanding of what they do and how bodies break down over time.” 

The program is also considering a third trip to Trey Ganem Designs custom casket company in Edna, which they hope to integrate with the Houston trip, or to the local Wilbert Funeral Services, which sells concrete vaults caskets are encased in for burial.

The cost or availability for these possible trips has not yet been worked out, Escatel said.

The program will also attend the National Funeral Directors Association’s Crematory Operator Seminar on campus, which is a crash course on operating a crematory that offers a certification opportunity on Feb. 16.

For students in the program, the discounted cost will be $160, which includes a NFDA membership. The regular cost for non-funeral directors to attend is $495.

Woody said the seminar is an opportunity for students to get ahead, and becoming a certified crematory operator would look good on a résumé.

For information on the trips, contact Woody at 210-486-1129 or

For information on the crematory seminar, contact Professor Mary Allen-Martin at 210-486-1134 or


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