SUNY Canton Funeral Services Administration Program Joins COVID-19 Effort


Faculty members and students from SUNY Canton’s Funeral Services Administration program are volunteering in New York City during the ongoing COVID-19 battle.

David R. Penepent, Ph.D., director of the college’s four-year funeral services program, has orchestrated “Hands with a Heart,” a grass-roots effort to help alleviate the strain on the city’s overworked funeral homes.

His efforts have been documented by numerous national media outlets, including

“This is a multi-college effort,” he said. “Mortuary science and related programs are coordinating to provide resources to help overcome this tragedy.”

Professor David Penepent assists students with pink embalming fluid.

Licensed funeral directors work side-by-side with student volunteers to transport the deceased to crematoriums all over the state and to neighboring facilities in Vermont and Pennsylvania. Following cremation, remains are then sent home to families. “Our students are well-equipped to handle this situation with professionalism and compassion,” he said.

The students benefit from knowing the proper protocols and procedures to work within mass-fatality situations. “We are all wearing the proper personal protective equipment,” he said.

Tamara Bullock, owner of Bullock Funeral Services in Harlem and a 2001 SUNY Canton graduate commended the college for providing much-needed relief.

“I was so grateful for their assistance,” she said. “We don’t have room in the funeral home for all of the people who need services because the we are delayed in having cremations. Our crematories have too many requests and can’t accommodate most people.”

Newly hired lecturer Darien B. Frederick of Watertown is helping plan weekly transportation trips, which sends the SUNY Canton volunteers across the state. Frederick is a 2017 SUNY Canton graduate.

“At SUNY Canton, we value solving problems and doing the right thing,” said Peggy A. De Cooke, college provost and vice president for academic affairs. “We care about our extended community and we are ready to help.”

The college’s funeral services administration program is one of the very few four-year mortuary science majors in the United States. It is also one of the only programs of its kind within the SUNY system.

About SUNY Canton

As Northern New York's premier college for career-driven bachelor's degrees, associate degrees and professional certificate programs, SUNY Canton delivers quality hands-on programs in engineering technology, management, and healthcare fields. It is home to the Center for Criminal Justice, Intelligence and Cybersecurity. Faculty members are noted for their professional real-world experience in addition to outstanding academic credentials. As SUNY's leader in online education, SUNY Canton OnLine offers hundreds of flexible and convenient courses as well as 23 online degree programs. The SUNY Canton Kangaroos 15 traditional athletic teams compete at the NCAA Division III level as part of the North Atlantic Conference. SUNY Canton also features varsity esports and cheerleading.