NextGen Professional of the Year
Past Award Winners
2014 - AnnYager McCrosky
AnnYager McCrosky is the fourth generation of funeral directors at Stith Funeral Home in Danville, Kentucky. After graduating from the John A. Gupton College of Mortuary Arts in 2001, she immediately took on a series of projects designed to enhance offerings and to better provide for client families.
AnnYager took the initiative to educate herself on green burials and is now considered a local expert, having exhibited at the Green Expo and given several presentations on the subject. At her insistence, Stith Funeral Home became the first Kentucky member of the Green Burial Council in 2008; the firm now offers one of the largest selections of eco-friendly urns, caskets and register books in the state.
AnnYager’s dedication to her community is immediately apparent in her involvement with a variety of local causes. She is a member of the Danville Rotary Club, having served as the chair of a program that distributes dictionaries to fourth grade students in the county. In addition, she is a co-founder of the Young Professionals group of the Danville Boyle County Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors Club, which bestows the “Rising Star” award, an award that she designed. As a member of Big Brothers Big Sisters for ten years, her passion for working with children is also evident in her efforts to improve and broaden a program the firm offers to families with children. She goes above and beyond to talk children through the process when a loved one dies, making herself available whenever she is needed.
AnnYager’s community focus extends far beyond the reaches of her own community. In the summer of 2002, she served as a liaison between the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the families of the victims of 9/11. She met with families on behalf of the medical examiner, answering their questions and escorting them to Memorial Park where they could leave flowers and mementos. In the fall of 2005, AnnYager volunteered in Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. She served in a Public Health Service captain’s position as the D-Mort liaison for the U.S. Public Health Service in Baton Rouge.
AnnYager has been the recipient of numerous awards throughout the years. Notably, in 2004, she was the youngest recipient of the Joseph W. Kelly Award from the Kentucky Board of Education, an award given to businesspeople who demonstrate outstanding leadership in promoting school improvement and equitable educational opportunities for the children of Kentucky.
An active member of Selected, AnnYager served on the NextGen Advisory Group from 2008 to 2012, and was chair in 2009-2010. In addition, she is a member of the 2012 Selected Leadership Academy pilot class, bringing much of what she has learned into practice at the firm.
AnnYager was married to Alex McCrosky in 2011. The couple lives in Danville.
2013 - Neil O'Connor
Neil O'Connor manages O'Connor Mortuary, a four-generation-old family business established in 1898. Along with the chapel and crematory, O'Connor Mortuary also has two arrangement centers in San Juan Capistrano and Irvine. With his ambition, impeccable business sense and strong desire to reach out to his community, Neil has put his heart and soul into outreach that has generated some extraordinary results. For his firm, Neil has developed the Plan Well...Live Well Advanced Planning Program, created a Community Relations Department and increased employee retention through monthly employee educational workshops. He also has gone above and beyond for his community. He chaired the Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center Annual Gala for two years, raising more than $1 million each year, works with FADD (Friends Against Driving Drunk) by providing employees and a hearse for the "Every 15 Minutes" drunk driving reenactment at four Orange County high schools for the past 10 years, and served as the Master of Ceremonies for the Age Well Senior Services "Captain's Ball" which raised more than $130,000 for the Meals on Wheels program. In 2003, Neil met his wife Lisa while at a yoga retreat in Maui. Together they have a son, Jesse. Neil continues to practice Ashtanga Yoga and enjoys playing beach volleyball.
2012 - Claire Austin
Claire Austin is the tenth generation, and the first female, to run Austin's Family Funeral Directors. As the leading independent funeral directors in the county of Hertfordshire, England, Austin's has been established for more than 300 years; making it one of the oldest funeral homes in the United Kingdom. Austin's includes eight branches in North East Hertfordshire, arranging more than 1,200 funerals per year. Austin's also owns and operates a Crematorium and Memorial Gardens. Claire's staff most recently has been awarded the East of England Business Champions Award for Service Excellence and the Hertfordshire Medium Business of the Year Award.
2011 - Michael Schoedinger
Michael Schoedinger is President of Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Services, Columbus, OH. He is a sixth generation owner of the firm, a licensed funeral director and embalmer. He has earned the Certified Funeral Service Practitioner (CFSP) from the Academy of Professional Funeral Serve Practice and the Certified Preplanning Consultant (CPC) from the National Foundation of Funeral Service. He also holds an Ohio Life & Health Insurance License, Life Appreciation Training Certification and Notary Public, State of Ohio. He spearheads the company’s public relations, advertising and marketing initiatives as well as champions the power of community relations by encouraging the firm’s 150 associates to engage routinely in community and charitable events. Michael often serves as Schoedinger’s media spokesperson and has presented countless presentations at funeral profession and other business events.