In 1936, R. Victor Landig opened the Landig College of Mortuary Science in Houston, Texas. He saw a need in Southeast Texas for a college of mortuary science to train men and women as embalmers and funeral directors.
Landig was truly a pioneer in funeral service education, and he was able to attract to his faculty some of the leading experts in embalming and restorative art in the country. This included A.O. Spriggs, the author of The Art and Science of Embalming and Champion’s Textbook on Restorative Art (Spriggs went on to become the director of research for the Champion Embalming Fluid Co.) and C.F. Callaway, author of the widely used textbook, The Art of Funeral Directing (Callaway later served as director of research for the Undertakers’ Supply Co. in Chicago).
Landig himself wrote the book Time Changes Everything which became a standard textbook on communication skills for funeral directors. He also authored Basic Principles of Funeral Service.
During this growth period, the Landig College of Mortuary Science became the focal point in the formation of Howard S. Eckel’s new method of restorative art, called “derma surgery,” still used today as the core of the Restorative Art course.
In 1955, the school was renamed the Commonwealth College of Science, reflecting Landig’s plan to move his college to Commonwealth Street in downtown Houston. However, personal health problems stopped Landig’s plans and, in fact, led to him selling his interests in the college to Tex Garton, a popular and respected funeral director in the Houston area. Garton operated the college until 1966, when it was purchased by the Pierce Organization. Later, a new facility was built, and the college relocated to Barren Springs Drive in north Houston. Around that time, the name was again changed to Commonwealth College of Funeral Service.
In the late 1980s, an extensive feasibility study by a team of the nation’s top funeral service executives, practitioners, and funeral service educators was conducted by R.L. Waltrip, chairman emeritus of the board of regents of Commonwealth Institute of Funeral Services. The goal was to provide the finest contemporary funeral service education, including: a curriculum that emphasized hands-on experience in embalming and restorative art; computer science; and funeral directing and management skills. In 1988, the “Institute of Funeral Service” was chartered as a Texas non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, and instruction began on Aug. 29, 1988.
For a two-year period, there were two mortuary colleges in Houston. In 1990, the Institute of Funeral Service acquired Commonwealth College of Funeral Service and changed its name, becoming Commonwealth Institute of Funeral Service. The merger of the two colleges brought together the finest faculty and facilities.
Over the years, Commonwealth has expanded and now offers the finest in educational facilities and faculty in the United States. Today, Commonwealth has a state-of-the-art clinical embalming facility, a restorative art laboratory, a funeral merchandise display room, a library, a computer lab, and newly remodeled classrooms; along with leading licensed funeral service practitioners employed as faculty.
Commonwealth Institute of Funeral Service was among the first mortuary colleges to offer two distinct learning tracks for student success; a completely on-campus program and an online program with on-campus clinical practicum experience.