Brookfield, WI — The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) is proud to announce the 20 funeral service professionals who will take part in the association’s first-ever National Emerging Leaders Program. The selected participants will develop leadership skills that will serve them well in any setting they may find themselves – their funeral home, their state or national association, their community, and beyond.

“We were delighted to receive so many high-quality applications, and it was not easy for our review committee to narrow it down to just 20 participants” said NFDA President R. Bryant Hightower Jr., CFSP. “I am excited to meet these colleagues in the months to come and watch them develop into the leaders who will, one day, carry the torch in our profession, our businesses and our communities.” 

The 2021-22 NFDA National Emerging Leaders Program Class

  • Mandy Butler, Smith Little Rock Funeral Home, Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Benny Capaul, Capaul Funeral Home, Ida, Michigan
  • Jeri Lynn Davenport, Smith-Benton Funeral Home, Benton, Arkansas
  • Lance David, David Funeral Home LLC, New Iberia, Louisiana
  • Kelly Davidson, Wallin-Stucky Funeral Home, Oak Harbor, Washington
  • Ebonē Dukes, Northwest Mississippi Community College, Southaven, Mississippi
  • Todd Harra, McCrery & Harra Funeral Homes and Crematory, Wilmington, Delaware
  • Christopher Harrison, Heritage Funeral Home & Cremation Services LLC, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • Emily Jasperson, Hodroff- Epstein Memorial Chapels, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • LaShonda Martin, Kemp Funeral Home, Southfield, Michigan
  • Victoria Martin, Spadaccino & Leo P. Gallagher and Son Community Funeral Home, Monroe, Connecticut
  • Anthony J. Nardolillo, Nardolillo Funeral Home Inc., Cranston, Rhode Island
  • Dawn Nelson, Zacherl Funeral Home, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
  • Jane Pigott, MacKinnon & Bowes Limited, Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada
  • Kathlene Rodgers, Nie Family Funeral Home, Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Michael Shorter, Anderson McQueen Funeral Homes, St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Mandy Stafford, Mueller Memorial, Saint Paul, Minnesota
  • Jacob Waterworth, Krause Funeral Home, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Kasey Wilson, Gunderson Funeral & Cremation Care, Madison, Wisconsin
  • Damon Wenig, Wenig Funeral Homes, Oostburg, Wisconsin

There is great excitement among participants about the program. “I am absolutely thrilled to be offered this selective position. I graciously and excitedly accept!” said Victoria Martin, Spadaccino & Leo P. Gallagher and Son Community Funeral Home, Monroe, Connecticut. 

“I am humbled and honored to be accepted into the NFDA Emerging Leaders Program,” said Anthony J. Nardolillo, Nardolillo Funeral Home Inc., Cranston, Rhode Island. “I look forward to this incredible opportunity to learn from some of the great leaders in our professional community and to work alongside the other participants.”

“Thank you so much! I am elated to be a part of this program,” said LaShonda Martin, Kemp Funeral Home, Southfield, Michigan.

About the National Emerging Leaders Program

All funeral service professionals from the United States and Canada, regardless of NFDA membership status, were invited to apply for one of 20 seats in the National Emerging Leadership Program. The only requirement was that applicants be in the process of building their careers in the profession (i.e., first-career funeral directors licensed 5-10 years or second-career funeral directors licensed 3-8 years)

This year-long program will start and end at the 2021 and 2022 NFDA Leadership Conferences (the 2021 NFDA Leadership Conference is scheduled for August 1-4 in Charleston, South Carolina). In addition to meeting during the Leadership Conference, participants will meet virtually approximately eight times throughout the year to learn from experts, both from within the profession and from outside authorities.

The program features a practical and theoretical approach to advanced leadership topics. The curriculum, which is being developed in partnership with expert consultants in leadership development, will cover topics such as mentorship, ethical leadership, employee relations, collaborative decision-making, strategic planning, servant leadership, communication skills, small business ownership, and more. 

Participants will also have access to mentors, engage in high-level networking, and work with fellow program participants on a group project that will teach them to apply the skills they are learning in real-world scenarios. More information about the National Emerging Leaders Program is available at Information about the application process for the 2022-23 program will be available in the spring of 2022. 

NFDA thanks the Funeral Service Foundation and Live Oak Bank for their generous support of the National Emerging Leaders Program. 

“The Funeral Service Foundation congratulates the inaugural class of NFDA’s National Emerging Leaders Program. Many of these leaders, thinkers and doers have benefited from the Foundation’s commitment to life-long learning through scholarships and continuing education opportunities,” said 2020-21 Foundation Chair, Anthony Guerra. “We’re thrilled to see them thrive in their careers and look forward to seeing the positive impact they’ll undoubtedly make within the funeral service profession and the communities they serve in the years to come.”

“The funeral lending team at Live Oak Bank would like to congratulate the participants of the first-ever National Emerging Leaders Program,” said Tim Bridgers, SVP Funeral Home Lending, Live Oak Bank. “We are proud to sponsor the National Emerging Leaders Program because we are passionate about educating small business leaders and supporting their path to growth and success. We look forward to supporting this year’s National Emerging Leaders Program participants now and in the future as they strive to master their business and achieve their dreams.”

NFDA is the world’s leading and largest funeral service association, serving more than 20,000 individual members who represent nearly 11,000 funeral homes in the United States and 49 countries around the world. NFDA is the trusted leader, beacon for ethics and the strongest advocate for the profession. NFDA is the association of choice because it offers funeral professionals comprehensive educational resources, tools to manage successful businesses, guidance to become pillars in their communities and the expertise to foster future generations of funeral professionals. NFDA is headquartered in Brookfield, Wis., and has an office in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit

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