About CCMS


Image of Joseph Clarke

A leader in funeral service education since 1882!

As embalming developed into a respected trade during the Civil War, it became necessary to standardize the embalming process and train embalmers in a school setting. To meet this need, our founder Joseph Henry Clarke established the Clarke School of Embalming in 1882 and would eventually become known as the “father of American embalming schools.”

The Clarke School

While Clarke was working as a casket salesman for the Whitewater Valley Coffin Company, he became aware of the need for improved methods of preserving human bodies. To learn more, he enrolled in an anatomy course taught by Dr. C. M. Lukens at the Pulte Medical College, located at the corner of Seventh and Mound Street in Cincinnati. Clarke and Lukens hit it off, and eventually they created a school of embalming where they demonstrated arterial embalming techniques using newly developed embalming chemicals.

The first class was organized Monday, March 8, 1882. Lasting only six days, each of the seven students received intensive training in the amphitheater of Pulte Medical College in Cincinnati. With the class being a success, five subsequent classes were organized during the remainder of 1882. To broaden student knowledge and stimulate interest in the school, Mr. Clarke and his colleagues took their teachings to Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston where his ventures proved prosperous. (Coincidentally, 1882 was also the founding year for the National Funeral Directors Association.) The Clarke School of Embalming was founded as a permanent institution of learning and renamed Cincinnati College of Embalming in 1909. The College found a home in General Hospital in 1915.

Dhonau Reforms the Curriculum

In 1909 upon Clarke’s retirement, Charles O. Dhonau purchased the college. Having a high regard for the educational and licensing system, Dhonau pursued his vision of becoming an educator to improve and expand mortuary education. In the 1920’s, Mr. Dhonau was a pioneer in developing an expanded curriculum and was instrumental in the organization of the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE), which was established to evaluate mortuary science programs. In 1933, with an expanding curriculum, the college moved into an independent, remodeled building at 3200 Reading Road. It remained there for 46 years.

Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science

After developing a cooperative academic program together with the University of Cincinnati in 1966 Mr. Dhonau subsequently renamed the college Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science. The Cincinnati Foundation for Mortuary Education, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization to support the college, was established which to this day functions as the college’s financial foundation. When Dhonau retired, Dr. George Sleichter, a faculty member of 40 years, became Director of the institution (1970-1975). Dr. Sleichter’s resigned in 1976 for health reasons and Mr. David Fitzsimmons was appointed the 4th President of CCMS(1976-1986).

In 1977, the college established 2 and 4 year programs partnering with Edgecliff College and relocating onto their campus at 2220 Victory Parkway. In 1987, Edgecliff consolidated with Xavier University and CCMS was moved into Xavier’s A.B. Cohen Center where it remained until 1995 when sixteen acres of land was purchased in Finneytown, Ohio and a new, modern building was constructed at 645 W. Northbend Rd.

CCMS Becomes Accredited

In 1980, CCMS received authorization from the Ohio Regents to award the Associate of Applied Science degree, and in 1982 it received accreditation of that degree by the Higher Learning Commission, North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. In 1986, CCMS became the first private college of mortuary science in the nation to be authorized to award the Bachelor of Mortuary Science degree. In 1987, CCMS was accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, North Central Association and by the American Board of Funeral Service Education at the bachelor’s degree level. CCMS has maintained both its regional and professional accreditations to this day.

Current Campus

The design of the current building remains specific to the education and training of funeral service students. Students enjoy a spacious, modern learning environment, equipped to enhance practical experience, with its own embalming and gross clinical laboratory complex. With a focus in hands-on applications and clinical/restorative art lab training, construction of the new building was completed with the intention of creating a venue where students apply practical applications to develop confidence and competence in all aspects of funeral service.

For over 130 years, CCMS continues to deliver a high standard of excellence in comprehensive curriculum, practical experience, and overall student satisfaction. We invite you to stop in at 645 W. North Bend Rd., Cincinnati, Ohio if you are ever in the area!

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