Alumni

The Alumni Society enjoys recognizing alumni for their contributions to the profession, their community and the Program of Mortuary Science.

2019 Alumnus of the Year Recipient - Patrick “Pat” Patton

ms alumnusThe Program of Mortuary Science Alumni and Program Faculty and Staff has proudly selected Patrick “Pat” Patton as their Alumnus of the Year 2019.  The Alumni Society enjoys recognizing alumni for their contributions to the profession, their community and the Program of Mortuary Science.

Pat is a 1978 graduate of our Program. When asked why he chose the Funeral Profession he replied his goal upon entering the University was to enroll in medical school. When selecting a major, he was looking for a course of study that would allow him to fulfill the science requirements for medical school and/or a related profession. A counselor suggested he consult with a senior student enrolled in Mortuary Science and qualified to advise. Following that, he met with faculty member Mr. Burger and The Director of the Program, Mr. Slater.  It was at that visit he became convinced he should apply for acceptance to the program. Once enrolled he was soon absorbed in the curriculum and its specialized areas of study such death and dying, grief, and loss. During his junior year Organic Chemistry got in the way of his plans for medical school. But by that time, he was committed to funeral service as a career choice. Pat chose the University of Minnesota because of the influence of friends as well as its outstanding reputation. Furthermore, during his senior year he was honored to serve as the drum major for the University of Minnesota marching band.

Following graduation, Pat served an internship at the Range Funeral Home in Virginia, Minnesota. He returned to Minneapolis in 1979 and worked for the Albin Funeral Chapel. In 1984 he moved to Sauk Centre where he became the manager of Schad Funeral Home. He and his wife Sue purchased the funeral homes from Bernie and Mary Schad in August of 1993, changing the name to Patton-Schad Funeral & Cremation Services. They have owned and operated the business for 26 years.

While Pat resided and worked in Minneapolis, he was also a preceptor for the Mortuary Science practicum program nearly every quarter and very much enjoyed interacting with the students as a teacher and mentor.

On a few occasions, he was able to be a preceptor for students in out-state Minnesota.

Pat has been actively involved in many aspects of funeral service.  In his words, “funeral service association and organization work has been his avocation for the past 30 years.  He is an enthusiastic advocate for active participation in funeral associations like MFDA, NFDA and ICCFA.  Pat served as an At-Large Representative on the Executive Board of the National Funeral Directors Association in 2011-2013 and currently serves as Minnesota's representative to the Policy Board of NFDA. He is a past president of the Minnesota Funeral Directors Association and is a member of the MFDA Service Corp. Board of Directors. Pat has been a member of the Professional Conduct Committee of NFDA and served as the chair for the past two years. He has held the Certified Funeral Service Practitioner designation of the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice since 1995, is a Certified Crematory Operator, and is also a licensed insurance agent. He is a past member of the Federated Insurance Advisory Council. He was a member of the Sauk Centre Lions Club and a past president. He was a Certified Eye Enucleator and in 2003 was presented the Helen Keller Sight Award from the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank. He is also a past president of the Sauk Centre Area Chamber of Commerce, served as the Chamber representative on the Sauk Centre Economic Development Authority, and was a member of the advisory board of Saint Michael's Home Care and Hospice.

Pat was recently elected to the Board of Directors of Directors Investment Group, the parent company of Funeral Directors Life Insurance Company. He is the first board member from outside the state of Texas.

Pat and his wife Sue have been married 41 years. They have two sons, Nathan (Heather) and Adam (Becky) and two grandchildren, Ethan and Emilie.

This award is in recognition of the noteworthy contributions that Pat has made to the funeral profession and other meaningful worthy organizations since graduating from our program in 1978.  In selecting Patrick as Alumnus of the Year, the Faculty, Staff and Alumni wish to express their gratitude to him for his personal and exceptional service. It is for these efforts as well as those we are certain have gone without recognition; that we wish to honor Pat as our 2019 Alumnus of the year. On behalf of the Alumni, program faculty, staff and students, we congratulate you and extend our profound gratitude for your support of the profession, the Program and your community. Pat received this honor at the University of Minnesota, Program of Mortuary Science graduation ceremony held on Friday, May 10. 2019.  Following the plaque presentation, Pat shared with the Class of 2019, guests and faculty his appreciation for the award.

2018 ALUMNUS OF THE YEAR RECIPIENT - WALLY GELECINSKY

Wally GelecinkskyThe Program of Mortuary Science Alumni and Program Faculty and Staff has proudly selected Wally Gelecinsky as their Alumnus of the Year 2018.  The Alumni Society enjoys recognizing alumni for their contributions to the profession, their community and the Program of Mortuary Science. 

Wally is a 1989 graduate of our Program. When asked why he chose the Funeral Profession, he replied, "I did not find funeral service…it found me."

Curiosity leads to discovery, perhaps being a seeker as well. Over the many years of being in the funeral industry, Wally tells the foremost reasons, why he chose the funeral industry: His trusting relationship with God. His close-knit Family. His appreciation for Tradition and Ceremony. His efforts in providing a grieving family with a meaningful experience. Positive statements from people for his ongoing demonstrations of care and concern.  Furthermore, he is a caregiver by nature and has found great satisfaction in observing others have a meaningful experience because of his efforts.

When asked why he chose the University of Minnesota – his response was: He always wanted to be a Golden Gopher!  Knowing the esteemed academics the University provides, it is indeed one of the nation’s foremost Mortuary Programs.  It was his first choice.

Since graduating in 1989 Wally’s first full-time position in funeral service was at Kapala-Glodek Funeral Service in Northeast Minneapolis. After a few years, he moved on to a new opportunity, working for the Huber Family at Huber Funeral Homes & Cremation Service in the Southwest suburbs for 17 years. During his time at Kapala Glodek and Huber Funeral Home, he also assisted Midwest Mortuary & Shipping, NorthStar Mortuary Service, and Contemporary Funeral Home. Throughout his career, he has been an Independent Sales Representative for Little Falls Granite Works. 

Currently and for the past seven years Wally has been employed by Artco Casket Company as a Business Solutions Consultant and Sales Representative. And as time permits, Wally continues to promote the funeral service profession by speaking at high school programs, career round tables, and the death and dying classes at Normandale Community College.  He is also the Funeral Service Consultant to the Eden Prairie Cemetery Association.  And with his active Mortician and Insurance agent licenses, he frequently assists funeral homes and various mortuary services.

Speaking on behalf of our Mortuary Science Program, faculty member Angela Woosley says Wally has been a consistent and active alum, an outstanding preceptor, a mentor to countless students, and a volunteer for the funeral arrangements course every semester for the past nine years! In addition, he attends this commencement every year. And always contributing his time and skills selflessly and generously to the university.  He is dedicated to the profession and represents it admirably. 

On a more personal note, Wally is the son of Ukrainian parents who immigrated to the United States of America as displaced persons following World War II. Wally and his wife Renee have been married for 30 years and have two children, a daughter On-Ya (Onia) who is a recent graduate of a U of M with a Master’s degree in Education, and a son Anders who is currently a sophomore at the U pursuing a Sports Management degree.  Wally and his family attend St. Michael’s and St. George’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Northeast Minneapolis. He is currently the Booster Club V.P. of the University of Minnesota Men’s Lacrosse Team; Member-at-Large of The Twin Cities Figure Skating Association and the Figure Skating Club of Bloomington; furthermore he is a Member of the United States Figure Skating Association,  But it does not stop there!  Paul Harris Fellow and Sustaining Grand member of the Eden Prairie Rotary Club; Member of the Arrowhead Funeral Directors Association and the Minnesota Funeral Directors Association; and a very active volunteer with the Children’s Grief Connection.  Over the years he has been visible in many youth hockey, lacrosse, football, and soccer associations.  

This award is in recognition of the noteworthy contributions that Wally has made to the funeral profession and other meaningful worthy organizations since graduating from our program in 1989.  In selecting Wally as Alumnus of the Year, the Faculty, Staff and Alumni wish to express their gratitude to him for his personal and exceptional service. It is for these efforts as well as those that have certainly gone without recognition; that we honor him as our 2018 Alumnus of the year.  On behalf of the Alumni, program faculty, staff and students, we congratulate Wally and extend our profound gratitude for his support of the profession, the Program and your community.  

2017 Alumnus of the Year Recipient - Matt Wieser

Matt WieserThe Program of Mortuary Science Alumni and Program Faculty and Staff has proudly selected Matt Wieser as their Alumnus of the Year 2017.  The Alumni Society enjoys recognizing alumni for their contributions to the profession, their community and the Program of Mortuary Science.  

Matt is a 1999 graduate of the University of Minnesota, Program of Mortuary Science. When asked why he chose the Funeral Profession he replied, "He observed his father’s involvement with the local funeral directors and their responsibilities on a daily basis, and for this and his love for helping families led him to enter a career in funeral service." 

Matt chose the University of Minnesota because the personnel at the Wisconsin funeral homes where he was employed were all graduates of this Program. 

Following graduation Matt worked at Mueller-Bies Funeral Home in Roseville until 2003 at which time he left to join his father, Dick Wieser, in their Burial Vault family business.  In 2004 he and his father established Wieser Precast Doric Vault in Inver Grove Heights, a business that has been running strong for 13 years.   In 2012 Matt bought the business from his father and also started a precast step company called Quick Steps. 

Matt’s affiliation with the Mortuary Program since graduating originated in 2005 when he would visit the Sales and Marketing Class to share his experience and educate students on the specific details of a burial vault.  Speaking on behalf of faculty member Angela Woosley these are her words “This is Matt in a nutshell: When I ask for help--with class presentations, arrangements, anything--Matt's answer EVERY TIME and I mean EVERY TIME without hesitating is, "Whatever you need."   She continues: To say he's reliable and leave it at that ignores the fact that he is generous, smart, kind, caring, and gracious. He takes time out of his schedule not for me alone, but for each and every one of my students. He's not there to be the face of Doric or as a funeral director; he's there because he wants to help students succeed.  It's hard for some people to care about people they don't know, but for Matt, caring for people just comes naturally. Giving his time and talents to others doesn't drain him; it fuels him. Matt's one of a kind”. 

Matt also has a passion for helping Funeral Directors, volunteering with Hearts of Hope and participating in events of the MN Funeral Directors Association.  When asked what he likes to do in his spare time his response was working, eating, boating and fishing on the St. Croix.  And in Matt’s words, he has an amazing wife and six children. 

This award is in recognition of the noteworthy contributions that you have made to the funeral profession since graduating from our program in 1999.  In selecting Matt as Alumnus of the Year, the Faculty, Staff and Alumni wish to express their gratitude to him for his personal and exceptional service. It is for these efforts, and those we are certain have gone without recognition, that we all wish to honor Matt as our 2017 Alumnus of the year.  

2016 Alumnus of the Year Recipient - Chris Anderson

Chris AndersonThis year our Alumni committee asked for letters of recommendation to assist in the selection of our 2016 Alumnus of the Year.  This award is in recognition as well as our expression of appreciation for the many personally creative ways an alumnus has made to the profession of funeral service.  A senior student who is also the daughter of our nominee submitted an exceptional letter that drew the attention of our committee.    

On behalf of the alumni society and the Program of Mortuary Science faculty and staff it is a great pleasure to announce that Mr. Chris Anderson has been chosen as our 2016 Alumnus of the Year.

Chris is a 1980 graduate of the University of Minnesota, Program of Mortuary Science. When asked how he became interested in funeral service, he said he observed the ministry that his family provided to the community during their most difficult times and knew he needed to be part of this.  Chris started working at the family funeral home while a 9th grader.  Chris and his brother Keith, also an Alum, are third generation owners and directors.  They acquired the family business in 1995 from their father.  Chris’s daughter will be the fourth generation.  Their family funeral business is located in Escanaba and Gladstone, Michigan.  When it was time for Chris to attend Mortuary School his personal investigation concluded that our Program here at the University of Minnesota is the best in the country.

Chris has a very impressive resume of professional, educational, civic, social, and religious organizations he is or has been affiliated with and supported.  To name a few he is currently an active board member of the Michigan Funeral Directors Association and the National Funeral Directors Association, serving as Policy Board Representative.  He is past board member of the Michigan Department of Mortuary Science, past president of Michigan Funeral Directors Association and the list goes on.

As for Chris’s personal life, he and his wife Kim have two daughters, Laura and Christina and when time permits Chris enjoys hunting, fishing and traveling.

This award is a means of recognizing the outstanding contributions that he has made as a funeral service professional since graduating from our program in 1980. 

It is for these efforts and so many more that likely have gone without recognition that the Program and its alumni committee members wish to honor Chris as our 2016 Alumnus of the year.

On behalf of the Alumni Committee, the program faculty and staff and students, we congratulate Chris and are deeply grateful for his noteworthy accomplishments in support of the profession, the Program and his community.

2015 Alumnus of the Year Recipient - Dan Delmore

Dan DelmoreThe Program of Mortuary Science Alumni Society Board has proudly selected Dan Delmore as their Alumnus of the Year 2015. The Alumni Society enjoys recognizing alumni for their contributions to the profession, their community and the Program of Mortuary Science.

Dan received this honor at the University of Minnesota, Program of Mortuary Science graduation ceremony held on Friday, May 15, 2015.

Dan is a 1976 graduate of the University of Minnesota, Program of Mortuary Science. When I asked him how he became interested in funeral service, he said “I was raised by a funeral director”, his dad Bob Delmore is a 1941 graduate of the program. Dan shared with me that as a little boy he would ask his dad every day “what went on at the funeral home today” and he never missed an opportunity to go with his dad on Saturdays and Sundays to the funeral home. All through his youth and upon graduating from high school he wanted to be a funeral director. Dan chose the University of Minnesota’s, Program of Mortuary Science because it is thee premier funeral program in the country and he was honored to have classmates from around the United States. Dan began his career at Gearty-Delmore on June 6, 1976. And may I say “no grass has grown under Dan’s feet”.

He has been an active man which includes assuming the ownership and operation of the firm in the mid 1990’s. Please take a look at Gearty-Delmore’s website; you will be impressed.

Outside of the funeral business Dan is involved with a number of organizations in the Catholic church, including a board member of the Archdiocese Catholic Cemeteries and board chairman of the St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Maple Grove. He also is a board member of the Citizen’s Independent Bank of St. Louis Park. Over the years Dan has been active in a variety of civic organizations, including Optimists, Rotary, Sierra Club, Chamber of Commerce, and community festivals.

Dan and his wife Mary have two children, a son Hugh who is a High School Senior and a daughter Clare who is in the ninth grade. They are members of The Church of St. Bartholomew in Wayzata. Dan’s leisure time is spent with his children and their activities.

This award is a means of recognizing the outstanding contributions that you have made to the profession of funeral service since graduating from our program in 1976.

In selecting you as Alumnus of the Year, the Alumni Society Committee members expressed their admiration that you have always served your families with great care and compassion, noting in particular your dedicated service to members of your community who have no means to cover the burial expenses of their loved ones. Likewise, faculty and staff of the program are especially grateful to you for your many years of exceptional service as a student mentor and clinical preceptor, as well as your faithful and dedicated work on both the Program’s Advisory Board and American Board of Funeral Service Education re-accreditation site visit activities.

It is for these efforts and so many more that we are certain have gone without recognition, that the Program and its alumni committee members wish to honor you as our 2015 Alumnus of the year. On behalf of the Alumni Committee, program faculty and staff and students, we congratulate you and we are deeply grateful for your noteworthy accomplishments in support of the profession, the Program and your community. Thank you!

Following the plaque presentation Dan shared with the Class of 2015, guests and faculty his appreciation for the award.

2014 Alumni of the Year Recipients - Rich and Sharon Purcell

Richard and Sharon PurcellThe Program of Mortuary Science Alumni Society Board has proudly selected Rich and Sharon Purcell as their Alumni of the Year 2014. The Alumni Society enjoys recognizing alumni for their contributions to the profession, their community and the Program of Mortuary Science.

Rich and Sharon received this honor at the University of Minnesota, Program of Mortuary Science graduation ceremony held on Friday, May 16, 2014.

Rich is a 1982 graduate of the University of Minnesota, Program of Mortuary Science. Since graduation Rich has spent his funeral service career at Holcomb-Henry-Boom-Purcell located in St. Paul and Shoreview. Sharon is a 1983 graduate of the Program and following her graduation worked at Borthwick Mortuary in Honolulu, Hawaii for a year before returning to Minnesota and working at the Burnsville Funeral Home. Sharon’s career path included ten years in the computer industry while raising their family. In 1995 she returned to funeral service and began working at Holcomb-Henry-Boom-Purcell with Rich. In 1999 they became the owners of this funeral home, hence the funeral home name.

Asking Rich why he chose funeral service, he shared with me that as a teenager he had experienced an unexpected death of a relative and had been impressed by the compassion and service extended his family by the funeral director.

And for Sharon it was a Death, Dying and Will Writing” class she took her senior year of high school. An assignment in the class was to interview a funeral director. She thought she would be there just a short time but was there for a couple of hours. The director, Randy Hartquist, made her see the personal side of the funeral profession.

While a student Rich worked for Washburn-McReavy and he directed and coordinated the efforts of fellow students in the tasks of setting up and dismantling the Exhibit Hall during the Minnesota Funeral Directors Convention. He continued to coordinate the students for the convention following graduation.

The Program of Mortuary Science is grateful for your willingness to serve as clinical preceptors, as well as your faithful and dedicated work on both the Program’s Advisory and Alumni Boards. Rich first served on the Alumni board in 1986 and he and Sharon are both current members of the board. Rich and Sharon are Life members of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association and season Gopher Football ticket subscribers.

Outside of the funeral business Rich is very active in the Masonic Blue Lodge in Roseville and the Osman Shrine, where he serves as an elected official and will be President in 2017. They are members of St. Odilia Catholic Church in Shoreview.

When they have an opportunity to relax in Maui they enjoy swimming, snorkeling and boogie boarding in the ocean and, like all of us a little down-time is always appreciated.

Rich and Sharon have been married for 28 years and are blessed with four daughter, Holly, Sarah, Natalie, and Courtney and in June will add a son-in-law, Bobby.

On behalf of the Alumni Board, whose members include funeral service practitioners, program faculty, and students, we congratulate you and we are deeply grateful for your accomplishments in support of the profession, the Program and your community. Thank you!

Following the plaque presentation Rich and Sharon shared with the Class of 2014, guests and faculty their appreciation for the award.

2013 Alumnus of the Year Recipient - Timothy Koch

Timothy KochThe Program of Mortuary Science Alumni Society Board has proudly selected Tim Koch as their Alumni of the Year 2013. The Alumni Society enjoys recognizing alumni for their contributions to the profession, their community and the Program of Mortuary Science.

Tim received this honor at the University of Minnesota, Program of Mortuary Science graduation ceremony held on Friday, May 17, 2013.

Tim is a 1982 graduate of the University of Minnesota, Program of Mortuary Science. For the ten years following graduation Tim worked as a staff mortician and manager at several funeral homes located in Wisconsin, Minneapolis and Mankato. He also owned and operated Buckman-Shierts-Koch Funeral Home in Wabasha, Minnesota. In 1992 Tim began a career with the Minnesota Department of Health, Mortuary Science Section as an Investigator and more recently Manager. His career with Minnesota Health Department spanned over 20 years. He is now owner and operator of Metro First Call, a business he started in early 2013.

When I ask Tim why he chose funeral service he told me his hometown funeral director was the person most influential in directing him to funeral service and he chose the University of Minnesota for its’ excellent program.

Tim has been active in various aspects of funeral service, which includes a District 6 Representative to the International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Board (District 6 encompasses several adjoining states), and from 1999 until recently Tim was the Coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Health “Disaster Mortuary Emergency Response Team” and he supervised the Disaster Portable Morgue Unit, and for years the Program of Mortuary Science has had the privilege of Tim speaking to students on the Rules and Regulations of Funeral Service. Tim has been involved in civic organizations such as Lions and Rotary Clubs.

As for Tim’s personal life he is an avid runner, completing 3 Twin Cities Marathons and most recently ran Pikes Peak Marathon in Colorado; in addition, he is an enthusiastic photographer. Tim and his wife Mary, also a U of MN graduate (1983), have three children Nick, Kelsey and Ryan who have distinguished themselves in an ambitious pursuit of higher education and promising careers. The Koch’s are members of Bloomington Lutheran Church.

Following the plaque presentation Tim shared with the Class of 2013, guests and faculty his appreciation for the award and his work in funeral service.

2012 Alumnus of the Year Recipient - Timothy Hoff of Hoff Funeral Homes

Timothy HoffThe Program of Mortuary Science Alumni Society Board has proudly selected Tim Hoff as their Alumni of the Year 2012. The Alumni Society enjoys recognizing alumni for their contributions to the profession, their community and the Program of Mortuary Science.

Tim received this honor at the University of Minnesota, Program of Mortuary Science graduation ceremony held on Friday, May 11, 2012.

Tim is a 1980 graduate of the University of Minnesota, Program of Mortuary Science. He is president of Hoff Funeral Homes representing five locations. Hoff Funeral Homes is now in its’ third generation, which includes Tim’s daughter Ashley a 2008 graduate of the Program.

Tim has an amazing record for supporting the profession of funeral service. He was President of the Minnesota Funeral Directors Association 2001-2002. He co-founded the Children’s Grief Connection of Minnesota and has served as board chair from 2002-2010. Other offices at MFDA include secretary, treasurer and vice-president and he currently serves on MFDA’s Service Corporation Board. Tim is also a member of the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA). He currently serves on their Sales and Marketing Committee, the At-Need Arrangement ADHOC Committee and, is serving as Co-Chair of their Wide World of Sales event in January of 2013.

Tim is also active in his local communities, co-chairing the capital fund drive for the construction of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, serving twice as president of Lewiston Lions Club and serving on the Board of Directors for St. Charles Foundation for Academic Excellence.

Recently Tim along with his wife Jenny became Certified Funeral Celebrants.

And here on campus Tim supports the Program of Mortuary Science in many ways. This past semester he spoke to the students during their class on funeral practice about the importance of becoming involved in professional organizations. And you will surely see Tim on campus this fall as he is a Gopher Football Season ticket holder and a member of the Goal Line Club.

Following the plaque presentation Tim shared with the Class of 2012, guests and faculty his appreciation for the award and his work in funeral service.