(CBS) — First-year medical students at Northwestern paid tribute Wednesday afternoon to some of their most important learning tools: the cadavers in their anatomy labs.

“Our cadaver’s name is Gary. He died in his 40s from cardiopulmonary disease. Which is pretty vague but it’s all the information we were given,” said 22-year-old medical student James Maloy.

“I think they tried to make it not be a huge emotional deal and just have us jump right in. I was actually kind of surprised myself how well I was able to handle it. And the same for my classmates.”

But it was the humanity they honored at the Northwestern anatomy class closing ceremony.

A few families of the donated cadavers were there.

Kathleen Driscoll came in from Red Wing, Minnesota. Her brother Walter donated his body to Northwestern.

“Because he felt that – of all the things that he had gone through in his life and all the things that happened to him with the cancer that maybe after death he could do some good,” said Driscoll.

Northwestern Medical School has been holding the memorial ceremony since 1996. The school has invited families of donors to the service for the past several years.

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