Program History

The Mortuary Science program was started as part of Mesa Community College's ever expanding academic services in the fall of 1995. Dr. Thomas Taggart was its founding department chair and has continued to improve and expand the program into what it is today.Vintage photo of Williams Field

Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Center is home to the Mortuary Science program. This location is a joint-use facility we share with Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

The first graduating class of 1997 met in an adjacent building until the Mortuary Science building,(which was the old parachute folding building for Williams Air Force Base), was completed in the spring of 1997. In 2005 a crematory was added to the facility to teach students the proper procedures in the cremation process. The Mortuary Science program has had over 250 graduates, many of whom are very active in the funeral industry today.

The former Williams Air Force Base played a strategic role in America's aviation history. In February 1942, the growing military base's name was changed to Williams Field to honor Charles Linton Williams, an Arizona-born pilot. The facility was re-designated as Williams Air Force Base (WAFB) in January 1948. 

The Base was closed in 1993 and officially reopened as Williams Gateway Airport in March 1994. In 2008, the name of the Airport was changed to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.

Program Statistics

The annual passage rate of first-time takers on the National Board Examination (NBE) for the most recent three-year period for this institution and all ABFSE accredited funeral service education programs is posted on the ABFSE web site (

A Funeral Service Professional

  • Works with the bereaved, providing sensitive, effective intervention during a time of emotional need.
  • Is a professional caregiver who enables families and communities to express their concern for life and the living.
  • Is a motivated man or woman who practices a unique vocation and who is legally required to possess certain professional qualifications.
  • Is involved in a variety of activities within the community.
  • Carries out administrative and logistical tasks required by law, custom and accepted practice.

Teaching Staff

Thomas Taggart, EdD, LELFD
Program Director
Phone: 480-988-8501

Donna Backhaus, MA.Ed, LELFD
Phone: 480-988-8501