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Press Release 01232012

Claire Austin Honored as NextGen Professional of the Year

Leader of centuries-old, family-run firm recognized with award geared toward young professionals

NextGenLogoDEERFIELD, ILL. — January 23, 2012 — Selected Independent Funeral Homes has named Claire Austin of Hertfordshire, England, the 2012 recipient of its prestigious NextGen Professional of the Year Award. Austin was honored at a ceremony during the opening night reception of the group's annual seminar, taking place January 22-26 at the Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort in Las Cabos, Baja California Sur, Mexico. The award carries with it, in addition to recognition in front of the recipient's peers, a $500 cash prize and a physical award. The award is designed to specifically spotlight career achievements, community and organization involvement and awards/achievements of funeral professionals under the age of 50.

Selected Independent Funeral Homes created its NextGen group to encourage professionals who are in the earlier stages of their career and to recognize their value and unique needs in a special way. The group meets annually at a four-day seminar filled with educational and networking opportunities.

Austin is the second recipient of the award, which was created last year, and was honored because of her leadership qualities, professionalism and high praise shown by supporting letters of recommendation in her application package. Austin is currently Managing Director of Austin's Family Funeral Directors, based in Hertfordshire, England, with multiple locations. Austin assumed the role of managing director in 2001 at the retirement of her father, John.

"I am delighted to receive this prestigious NextGen award from Selected," said Austin. "By inference, 'Next Generation' suggests that there must have been previous generations, and I am proud and honored to represent the 10th generation of the Austin Family to have served our community within the United Kingdom."

The NextGen Professional of the Year Award is one of several programs of Selected Independent Funeral Homes, a worldwide professional association of independent, locally-owned funeral homes founded in 1917. In order to be eligible for the award, applicants must be an active employee of a Selected member firm (domestic or international) and under the age of 50 by the annual deadline. By creating the program, Selected hopes to promote and motivate the next generation of professionals engaged in the funeral industry.

"It's exciting that we are honoring our first international recipient by naming Claire as this year's NextGen Professional of the Year Award winner," said Robert J. Paterkiewicz, Executive Director of Selected Independent Funeral Homes. "For the past decade she has been at the helm of a member firm that has been successfully operating in the U.K. for more than 300 years. Under her leadership, Austin's operates 12 locations as well as a charitable fund to benefit the local community. That is no small feat, and we commend her for her achievements."

Austin is eager to share the credit for her success and that of Austin's Funeral Service. "My achievements and our firm's success is, by no small measure, a result of the hard work of my ancestors, from William Austin who created the business in 1700, through to my father, John Austin, who passed the reins to me. As is the case in all personal awards, they can rarely be achieved without the support of a great many people," she added. "I would like to take this opportunity to thank Selected for choosing me, but more importantly, thank all 43 members of our staff for the wonderful service they give to Austin's and bereaved families within our community."

In addition to the networking and educational opportunities available at its annual seminar, NextGen members also engage in an active electronic discussion group, which is available to NextGen members exclusively. More information on Selected Independent Funeral Homes and NextGen can be found on its website at www.selectedfuneralhomes.org.