"During your time here on Earth, you are given this one vessel to go about your life, and it is therefore the most personal gift that you could give someone else," Gabrielle Mintz, a senior at Heidelberg University said Tuesday.
Mintz, a biology major, has been working with cadavers in the senior-level Cadaver Prosection Lab at Heidelberg.
Tuesday's ceremony honoring the families and individuals who donated cadavers to the Biology Cadaver Lab, was a first for the school. This is the 25th year for the cadaver program at Heidelberg.
The ceremony also is part of Mintz's senior honors project.
"Body donation has had a long and often controversial history, and it is only recently that there has been widespread understanding amongst the general population of the value of such a gift," Mintz said.
"Even after a year and a half of working directly with these donors and learning the value of such a resource, I still don't know if I would be able to be as selfless and donate my own body," she said.
Preparing for this ceremony, Mintz researched similar ceremonies and discovered how rare it is for an undergraduate institution to offer the opportunity to dissect a cadaver.
"It is hard to find the words to adequately express the gratitude and appreciation that many of us feel for having been given this opportunity," Mintz said.
The Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences helped in presenting this ceremony.
Chair Pam Faber, a biology professor, helped start the program.
"Having grown up academically using cadavers as my primary study tool for anatomy, I found myself less than satisfied at the prospects of teaching without them," Faber said.
Several times Heidelberg tried to adapt its studies to allow a cadaver program, but was unsuccessful due to body donation shortages.
In 1988, a year after Faber joined Heidelberg, she contacted Ohio State University to get started with a cadaver studies program.
"They agreed to provide bodies donated through their program," Faber said, "The first year's cost was $700 (per cadaver) and over the years that has increased to this year's $1,750."
The program started off shaky with several administrators worried it would not be taken seriously by students. After a series of tours and several security precautions put in place the concern began to waver.
For instance, Faber said, "Only current anatomy students and invited guests are allowed in the lab with the cadavers. No photos are permitted, and whenever students leave the lab, the bodies are covered and returned to the secure storage area."
"Each student learns to find his or her own balance as they consider the donors both as a person and as a study tool." Faber said.
It is uncommon for a school the size of Heidelberg to have undergraduate access to a cadaver program, President Robert Huntington said.
"This program is a step forward for our students to be better prepared for their future careers," Huntington said.
Mintz and Faber have planted a tree between the greenhouse and Campus Center in memory of the individuals who donated their bodies and have given so much to Heidelberg students.
Biology Professor Susan Carty donated the tree from her home after discovering there might not be funds to purchase a tree for planting.
"I think that the cadaver prosection class that Heidelberg offers is an invaluable tool when preparing for a career in medicine, as I am," Joshua Olewiler, a biology major, said.
"This class stresses critical thinking, and above all, meticulous attention to detail," he said.
Alyssa Howard, an athletic training major, said having access to cadavers has given her an advantage entering the next phase of her education.
With just those two testimonies, Mintz said, "We see how diverse the application of a cadaver program such as the one at Heidelberg can be."
"I think many automatically assume that a program such as this only benefits those who plan on entering the medical field," Mintz said, "but there truly are a broad spectrum of individuals who gain a great deal from having this opportunity."