Venella Honored with MCCC's 2009 Alumni Leader Award
and memories often influence our career choices. For Les Venella,
whose mother died when he was just nine years old, the compassion
and help a funeral director gave to his family made a lasting impression.
When Venella had the opportunity to work as a teen during the summer
for a nearby funeral home, he was happy to do so.
When it came time for college, Venella searched for a funeral service
program. When he discovered that Mercer's program required on-the-job
internship training two days per week, he was convinced it would
be the best choice for him. "The last thing you want is for
somebody to spend three years in college and then start to work
in the field and realize it's not for them," he said.
Mercer's Funeral Service program was in its infancy, and Venella
graduated from the program's first class in 1976. He immediately
began his career at Saul Funeral Homes, where today he serves as
Venella is a
booster of MCCC in a variety of ways. Saul Funeral Homes, with four
area locations -- Hamilton Square, Trenton, Cranbury and Hightstown
-- has continuously employed Mercer students and graduates over
the years. Right now, eight of the company's 10 funeral directors
are Mercer graduates, and two students are trainees. "Mercer
grads have worked out great," he says.
selected for Mercer's "2009 Alumni Leader Award" came as
a surprise to Venella. "I was taken aback," he said. "I
am very honored."
Helping to ensure
the continuing relevance of MCCC's Funeral Service program, Venella
serves on its Advisory Board. He counts Program Coordinator Rob
Smith a colleague and friend. "Rob has done an outstanding
job with the program, keeping it at the highest level of academics.
When compared with other funeral service schools in the country,
Mercer is always near the top. That is specifically a credit to
a Funeral Service faculty member, is also well known to Venella,
having worked at Saul Funeral Homes when she was a student at Mercer
in the 1990s. "I actually pictured Deb teaching," Venella
said. "Teaching was in her blood. She is extremely gifted and
does an awesome job."
in professional and community service, Venella is treasurer of the
New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association, and is past president.
He has served on the National Funeral Directors Association Advisory
Board. He is a member of the Hamilton Township Rotary Club, the
Mercer County Chamber of Commerce, and the Mercer County Networking
Group. Over the past five years he has participated in the Hamilton
Township Meals on Wheels program. "You have to get involved
and give back to the community that gives to you," he said.
Funeral Service Program
Alumni Success Stories here.