Mt. Hood Community College President Michael Hay
Mt. Hood Community College's funeral service education program began in 1969 with only male students, and it remained that way for decades.
Now the school, the only one of its kind in Oregon, is mirroring drastic changes seen nationwide. Two-thirds of the students in the MHCC program are female -- much like the trend nationwide, where more than half of mortuary science program graduates are women and the number of female funeral directors is increasing.
Additionally, the program is seeing its increasing enrollment grow more racially diverse.
That all adds up to a debunking of the stereotypical funeral director, or as program student Casandra Hardman describes it: tall, lanky, emotionless and usually male.
"We're more caring than it appears in the movies," said Hardman, 22.
She is among the 25 women listed in the program for fall 2012. The other 12 were male. At 67.6 percent female, the school surpasses the national average of slightly more than 50 percent.
The community college, with locations in Gresham and Portland, offers classes in managing funeral homes, embalming, grief counseling, anatomy and accounting. Second-year students receive hands-on training during Mock Funeral Arrangements, an annual event that will be held Feb. 19 at the school's Gresham campus.