Our 2022 Convention Speakers with Course Descriptions


Keynote Speaker - Eric Layer

Author, "The Right Way of Death"

"The Right Way of Death" - 1.5 CE Credits

Death care isn’t what it used to be. Cremation rates are sky-high, customers have changing expectations, and new competitors materialize every day. It’s no surprise that an entire generation of family funeral home owners are wondering if this is the time to get out. The current uncertainty around death care is not morticians’ fault, but it is their problem. The calling is hamstrung by mixed messages. It’s tough for a modern funeral director to decide whether to be leader or follower, salesperson or confidant. But there is a right way to do death, and funeral professionals are experts. The future of the business will require a recognition of that truth so that those who work in death care can reclaim the soul of the calling and guide families with care and confidence.

In this keynote presentation based on the book, The Right Way of Death – Restoring the American Funeral Business to its True Calling, Eric Layer will outline the challenges and opportunities facing funeral professionals today including why your funeral home is stuck, and what to do about it.

Dominick Astorino

Adjunct Professor, Worsham College of Mortuary Science

Dominick J. Astorino is an adjunct professor of mortuary science both at Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Chicago and Wayne State University in Detroit where he wrote and teaches courses in embalming, restorative art, pathology and microbiology. Innovations such as the creation of a hands-on cranial reconstruction lab as well as teaching advanced techniques by applying basic principles have earned him accolades and awards from students and colleagues alike.

His work in the field of restorative art and reconstructive embalming has been highlighted in numerous publications worldwide as well as by invitations to present lectures across the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. In 2019, Dominick started the Kenyan Embalming Education Initiative which brought a standard of care, education and supplies to the underprivileged mortuary workers in Kenya; in 2020 Dominick presented the first embalming education seminar on the continent of Africa. A proponent of education, Dominick holds degrees in cellular biology and mortuary science and sits on the restorative art curriculum review committee for the American Board of Funeral Service Education.

Mr. Astorino is a licensed funeral director and embalmer in the states of Michigan and Illinois and is a member of the National Funeral Directors Association, Michigan Funeral Directors Association, and the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice.

"Practical Restorative Art for All Experience Levels" - 1 CE Credit

This fast-paced lecture is a rapid fire “crash course” addressing commonly encountered restorative art cases and offering proven solutions.

The one-hour presentation will cover topics such as:

  • Cosmetic strategies for discolorations
  • The reconstruction of disarticulated skulls
  • Handling jaundice and edema
  • Motor vehicle accident cases

"Defending the Truth: Embalming, Social Media and Bias" - 1 CE Credit

In an age of YouTube and Instagram morticians and media bias, where does the funeral profession and the public get their information about embalming?  How do we know what is true and what is biased agenda?  

This lecture uses well researched facts, data and science to address some of the hardest issues our profession faces today and will answer questions such as.

  • “Is formaldehyde harmful to the embalmer?”
  • “Are dead bodies dangerous without embalming?”
  • “Isn’t embalming bad for the environment?”

Barbara Kemmis

Executive Director, Cremation Association of North America

Barbara Kemmis is Executive Director of the Cremation Association of North America where she promotes all things cremation through member programs, education and strategic partnerships. After more than 20 years of experience in association leadership, Barbara knows that bringing people together to advance common goals is not only fun, but the most effective strategy to get things done.

Barbara has served two prior professions as the Director of Member Services at the American Theological Library Association and Vice President of Library and Nonprofit Services at the Donors Forum (now Forefront). Barbara earned a master’s degree in library science from Dominican University, a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from North Park University and a B.A. from Earlham College.


"Cremation is ______: Understanding Cremation Motivations" - 1 CE Credit

 CANA statistics have tracked the growth in cremation and reported the reasons why cremation is the new tradition, but what happens after the decision to cremate? This session presents ground-breaking research on consumer behavior and attitudes toward cremation.  Attend and gain strategies to better meet the needs of today’s cremation families.

  • Learn insights from focus group participants describing their cremation experiences
  • Identify strategies to meet the needs of cremation families
  • Rethink professional and personal assumptions about cremation

 Michael D. Sharkey

General Counsel, Wisconsin Funeral Directors Association

 Michael is a veteran attorney with a passion and enthusiasm for litigation. He also possesses a unique knowledge of the funeral industry and mortuary lay. He is currently General Counsel to the Wisconsin Funeral Directors Association. He represents and advises funeral homes, crematories and cemeteries on legal and business matters. He also represents licensed professionals in administrative disciplinary hearings from the Minnesota Department of health and the federal trade commission. Before he became an attorney, he was a Funeral Director with a large funeral chapel and cemetery operation in the metropolitan area.

Michael was previously in-house counsel and on the trial team with Nationwide Insurance Company where he was involved in litigation and arbitration. Prior to that, Michael worked as an attorney with a local civil litigation law firm focusing on insurance, coverage, premises liability, industrial equipment, utility liability, construction defect and toxic/mass tort cases.

Michael is a qualified No-Fault Arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association.

He has been listed a s Minnesota Rising Star since 2009.

Michael also served in the United States Marine Corps. 

"An Undertaker at the Courthouse" - 1.5 CE Credits

Sharkey's mortuary law practice focuses on keeping funeral homes, crematories, cemeteries, and individual funeral directors out of legal trouble and defending them when alleged to have engaged in wrongdoing. Explore the legal and public relations pitfalls and how to avoid them; the do's and don'ts of responding to a lawsuit; get practical advice that protects your funeral or cemetery business, manages risk, and increases the bottom line.

The presentation will cover the following topics:

  • GPL issues
  • Tissue procurement
  • Sexual harassment in the workplace
  • Cremation risks
  • Working with challenging families

"Business and Funeral Service Ethics- The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" - 1.5 CE Credits

This 1.5 hour long presentation will be taught by Socratic Method in which the audience attendees drive the conversation, discussion, and debate with me serving as a facilitator.  I will present a framework and basis for both general business ethics and use the NFDA’s model Ethics Code to set up a manner by which we can discuss the subject matter.  I will present various funeral service ethical fact patterns- every one of which comes from my personal experience and practice as a mortuary law attorney- for discussion. 

The goal is to have a truly interactive back and forth not just with me as the presenter but among the participants, which I will help to drive and facilitate.  This ethics program has been very well received at state conventions and is unique in the fact that the presenter does less speaking than the collective participants themselves.