The career of Professor John McAllister was marked by two dominant principles: studying and teaching.

Dr. McAllister graduated from Albany Medical College in 1879 as a Doctor of Medicine. He thereafter devoted most of his time to post graduate study and surgery in Eastern American Hospitals. From 1886 to 1889 he continued his professional education in London, Paris and Vienna under the renowned Anatomists and Surgeons of that day. He later returned to Europe from 1899 to 1901 for additional research and study.

In 1890 he founded the New York School of Pathology and Operative Surgery and was instrumental in the training of many of the leading surgeons in this country. He continued this institution until 1926.

Dr. McAllister became Professor of Anatomy and Dissection at the first Institute of Podiatry in 1914 and remained there for 15 years. He held the position of Local Surgeon to the New York Central Railroad for 20 years and was the Acting Coroners’ Physician and Special Pathologist at the New York City Mortuary for 20 years, until the present Medical Examiner’s Office was established in 1919.

During this time, he completed over 10,000 autopsies. This afforded him a tremendous opportunity for research into the many causes of death and their various effects on the body.

It was during these years, that Dr. McAllister discovered the need for thorough education of Embalmers and Funeral Directors. This need was finally met in 1926 when he founded the McAllister School of Embalming. He had the courage and vision to establish an educational institution with a lengthened program and rigorous faculty supervision at a time when there were minimal or non-existent standards for the licensing of funeral directors. He continued to direct the program and expand the activities of the School until shortly before his death in 1942.

His son, John McAllister was called to active duty in October of 1940 as a reserve lieutenant and was sent to Fort Dix with the 44th Division. While on duty with this division, war was declared and Captain McAllister was assigned coastal defense duties along the Atlantic. Following this, he was transferred to Foreign Service and joined the 3rd Infantry Regiment in Newfoundland. He was later promoted to Colonel.

During his period of active duty, Col. McAllister graduated from infantry school at Ft. Benning and the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth. He was awarded the bronze star medal for meritorious service, ETO ribbon with two stars.

Col. McAllister was associated with his father, for many years in the operation of the McAllister School of Embalming. He reopened the institution to carry on the traditions which World War II interrupted.

Lt. Col. John McAllister received his education at New York University and New York Law School, receiving the degrees of LL.B. and LL.M. He died December 27, 2003 at the age of 95.


The history of the Academy, as it was known to many of its graduates, is a little sketchy and sparse.

After the dark days following the great depression of 1929-30, the American Academy of Embalming and Mortuary Research opened its doors to students in the embalming field in 1931. The first recorded class graduated in October 1933. This class had only four students who attended school for six months. Classes at this time started every three months.

The Academy was conceived and sponsored by George A. Dodge. He gathered together the foremost teachers of the day to serve on the Board of Education. Through the years such notable men as Clifford G. Askins, Joseph R. Parker, William Collier, Ray E. Slocum, Francis E. Dolan, Dr. Ernest W. Lampe, Lloyd W. Howe and William H. Crawford were affiliated with American Academy. Under their guidance, and as a result of their ability, the American Academy forged ahead to a leadership position in this profession.

In 1947 the Academy was purchased by Mrs. Helene Carpenter Craig, owner of the St. Louis College of Mortuary Science. It was during her administration that the Academy enrolled the largest classes in their history. After many years of aspirations to maintain a sister-school in New York City, the Directors of the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science purchased the American Academy from Mrs. Craig. The Directors of the Academy at that time were Dr. Otto S. Margolis, Professor John Rebol, and Dr. Emory S. James. The administration of the school had been conducted by Dr. Margolis as its President and Dean from January 1957 until 1964.

(1964 – present)

It was decided in 1964 that the American Academy of Embalming and Mortuary Research and the McAllister School of Embalming should merge to form the American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service (AAMI). With both Dr. Margolis and Mr. McAllister leading the school, one was assured that success would follow.

Over a span of more than 90 years, AAMI, together with our forefather schools, educated and trained over ten thousand great men and women. For many years, we have enrolled many second and third generation students. Today, many of our students are first generation.

AAMI has had the privilege and honor to have many distinguished individuals who have served as Academic Deans: William Tari, William A. McDonald, Meg Dunn, Regina T. Smith and Tracy Lentz. Meg Dunn has also served as AAMI’s President from 1994 to present.

In January, 2005, the AAMI Board approved the recommendation of President Dunn that AAMI expand access to its funeral service associate degree by offering the entire program online. Following a year of planning and development, the first six online courses were offered in January 2006, to the first 15 students. Today, all courses except the clinical are offered online each semester and online enrollments have soared to 400 students per semester.

In 2013, AAMI was re-accredited by the Committee on Accreditation of the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) for the maximum term of seven  years (2013-2020).

We have a long history and tradition in the field of funeral service education and we intend to continue well into the future.