After a three-month regional search, the University has chosen the acting director of mortuary sciences as the permanent choice to head the program.
Michael LuBrant, 32, took the job as acting director after John Kroshus stepped down in May 2001.
“We’re really just going to carry on the work that we’ve started with the program,” LuBrant said. “I think it’s encouraging to have the support of the University and our colleagues in the field.”
After working as an instructor at the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science, LuBrant joined the University program in 1998. He has also worked as a funeral director.
Kelly Guncheon, executive director of the Minnesota Funeral Directors Association, said LuBrant has worked hard as acting director to raise the program’s visibility across the state and nationally. Guncheon said state support is important because alumni help with financial and training support.
“Ever since (LuBrant) joined the program, he’s been a tremendous burst of energy Ö and a very positive influence on where the program is going,” Guncheon said.
Michael C. Mathews, assistant professor in mortuary science, said LuBrant’s strongest qualities are his relationships with students in the program and funeral directors around the state. Mathews said having a strong relationship with funeral directors is crucial to the program because, unlike medical students who can do their clinical rotations at the University hospital, mortuary science students must learn out in the field.
“He’s the most people-oriented person I’ve met,” Mathews said, “and it’s all genuine.”
Mathews also said LuBrant was “fantastic” in helping both the program and family of James Ellison – a mortuary science student who was shot and killed in February at a Hudson, Wis., funeral home – deal with his death. He said LuBrant continues to keep in contact with the Ellison family and has established a scholarship fund in Ellison’s name.
LuBrant said he wants to improve opportunities for field experience, which mortuary science students need to graduate. Because less than 10 percent of students in the program come from families with a funeral home background, he said the clinical rotation becomes an important source for on-the-job training.
LuBrant said he is also trying to enable students to work with the growing number of families in the metropolitan area of varied cultures, who often have different funeral traditions. He said he has met with funeral directors serving those communities to hear what their needs are.
“It’s important to say Ö ‘What ways might we be able to change or to adapt in order to not only be relevant, but meaningful to serve you in a time of loss?’ ” he said.