March was a month for the Karabots Junior Fellows to learn about science, culture, and careers connected to death and dying through a variety of lessons, activities, and guest speakers. They learned about hospice and palliative care from Miguel Paniagua, Medical Advisor for the National Board of Medical Examiners and recently-inducted Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. They also got a glimpse into the world of funeral direction, courtesy of Tony Moore, Director of Funeral Service Education for Northampton Community College. Along the way, they also gained a greater understanding of cultural interpretations of death and how funeral practices are tied to different cultural beliefs about what happens after one dies. They concluded their month with a trip to the Woodlands. Established as the country home of Philadelphia socialite William Hamilton, the Woodlands became an active cemetery in 1840; it is the final resting place of numerous noteworthy Philadelphians, including several famous College Fellows, such as Silas Weir Mitchell, John Ashhurst, and William Williams Keen, and the founder of the Campbells Soup Company among other notables. It is also the site of the largest grave marker in the United States, an 84-foot tall obelisk constructed for famous dentist and Penn Dental school founder Thomas Wiltberger Evans.
Jim Mundy, chair of the Woodlands Board of Directors, took the Fellows on a tour of the site, including William Hamilton’s mansion, America’s earliest example of a Federal style home. Afterwards, the Fellows broke into groups to explore the cemetery grounds and search for notable “residents.” Even for students reticent at the thought of exploring a cemetery, the trip proved interesting. We are thankful for the staff at the Woodlands for making it possible.