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HFC remembers Rick Goward

Release Date
Rick Goward conducting

The HFC community mourns the passing of longtime HFC music instructor and administrator Rick Goward. He passed away on January 29 at the age of 70. A warm and detailed obituary was published by his family here.

From 1982 to 2007, Rick served HFC in many roles. Aside from his work teaching music, he was the founder of HFC’s Big Band and other music ensembles.

Goward dedicated nearly 40 years of his career to the College and continued serving our community well after retirement by conducting many concerts. The most notable was the President’s Collage Concert, which he founded with fellow music maestro Kevin Dewey, Director of Choirs at HFC.

Goward is survived by his wife Andi and their two daughters, Erin and Emily, and grandchildren, Lennon and Harrison. Emily also worked at the College with her father as an adjunct dance instructor.

A celebration of life will be held at a later date. We will notify you of any public opportunities to participate.

“Rick embodied the idea that our College is the gem of our community,” said HFC President Russell Kavalhuna. “He loved students, loved to perform, and loved the way music could inspire educators and education. He will be missed because he made a positive difference in the lives of his students and teammates, which is the mark of a true teacher.”

Kevin Dewey, director of vocal music at HFC and Rick’s friend for 27 years, said, “I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like around here without Rick. He’s been a mentor, professional colleague, uncle, dad, union rep, and close friend all this time. There was never a time when I brought up an idea for the Music Department that he didn’t fully support. He was definitely a ‘Yes Man’ to me, all the staff, all the students, all the family of students, and all the fans and supporters of HFC Music. I love him and already miss him profoundly. This is definitely a huge loss to thousands of students, staff, student and professional musicians, and the general public.”

Goward is well-remembered by many current and past members of the HFC community, including former HFC President, Dr. Andrew Mazzara. “This is an enormous loss to the College and the greater Dearborn community,” said Mazzara. “Rick was a unique educator. He dedicated his career to helping students develop their musical talents and organizing special events and opportunities for them to perform for family, friends, and the community. Rick’s Big Band performed at U.S. presidential inaugurations, international jazz concerts, and many Metro area events. He helped establish national visibility for HFC music. His legacy is the many former music students whose lives and careers where greatly enabled and enriched with his help and guidance.”

Passionate about music

Growing up in Lapeer County, baseball was Goward’s passion. That changed in 7th grade.

“The junior high band would leave a window open while they practiced. I would sit outside the window to listen to them play. One day I asked the band director if I could take lessons,” recalled Goward, who had found a new passion.

A year later, Goward became first chair in the band’s euphonium (baritone horn) section. After graduating from Lapeer West High School, Goward enrolled at Central Michigan University. There, he found that trombone players were able to participate in brass ensembles, the jazz band, and the orchestra. So he switched to trombone. Under the guidance of Music Professor Dennis L. Horton, Goward played in the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, the Symphony Orchestra, the Marching Band, the Trombone Ensemble, musicals, and many wind groups.

Goward earned his bachelor's degree in music from CMU and his master’s degree in music from the University of Michigan. He completed additional coursework in music at Michigan State University.

In 1975, Goward began his teaching career at Trenton High School. One of his students was CMU Associate Director of Bands, Dr. James Batcheller.

“I can say without exaggeration that Rick Goward changed my life,” said Batcheller. “He believed in me and mentored me, as he did for all his students, in a way that was inspiring, compassionate, and fun. Those of us who teach music spend our careers in research and practice to codify methods that came to Rick naturally because of his rare combination of talent and intellect. He was among those rare individuals who are both larger than life and self-aware and humble. He was among the least selfish people I've known. I've spent my life and career trying to live up to his example.”

Turning HFC’s music program into an international success

Goward taught in Trenton for nearly seven years before joining the faculty of HFC (then Henry Ford Community College) in 1982. Early in his time at HFC, Goward quickly grew the music program, and it became internationally recognized. HFC currently boasts the biggest two-year college music program in Michigan.

In 1983, Goward formed the award-winning Big Band, HFC’s premier music group. Big Band members have achieved international acclaim by performing at nearly every major jazz festival in the world, including the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.

The Big Band performed twice at the renowned Carnegie Hall in New York City, as well as the Detroit International Jazz Festival, the Edinburgh Music Festival, the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and what is now Disneyland Paris. In 2011 and 2013, the Big Band appeared on PBS television.

The Big Band also performed with music legends Maynard Ferguson and Karen Newman, the Count Basie Orchestra, and at four Presidential Inaugural celebrations in Washington D.C.

The Wayne County Council for the Arts and the Wayne County Commission rewarded Goward and the Big Band the 2008 Wayne County Executive’s Award for outstanding cultural contributions in southeast Michigan.

In addition to founding the Big Band at the College, Goward also founded the Metropolitan Symphony Band, the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, and the Studio 110 Jazz Orchestra.

“Rick was the nicest man, always greeting everyone with a huge smile,” said Dearborn Public Schools General Music Specialist and Music Resource Teacher Lisa Meyer, who is an HFC alumna. “He was a fantastic musician and gave area musicians a chance to perform with an outstanding group – the Big Band. He will be very missed.”

Performing on The Tonight Show and with the Queen of Soul

Goward has performed with the Queen of Soul herself, Detroit’s own Aretha Franklin. He also performed alongside Marie Osmond, the King Sisters, and Vanguard Brass in addition to working with area big bands and orchestras in Detroit and Los Angeles. He also appeared on The Tonight Show and The Late Show, playing the trombone.

From 1998 to 2007, Goward served as the associate dean for the Fine Arts and Fitness division at HFC (a precursor to the School of Liberal Arts). He was a board member of the HFC Federation of Teachers Local 1650, representing retirees. He was also past vice president of the HFC Administrators Association Local 71. During retirement, he was an active member of the Dearborn Rotary Club. He was President-Elect for 2021-22.

HFC Chair of Communication and Media and WHFR General Manager Susan McGraw and retired HFC Director of Theatre Dr. George Popovich both have fond memories of Goward, to whom they reported when he was the associate dean.

"Rick's immense talent was surpassed only by his larger-than-life personality,” said McGraw. “He was a big teddy bear – sweet and funny with a perpetual twinkle in his eye. He was a true classic and will be missed dearly."

Added Popovich: “Rick Goward was real, passionate, and empathetic. He was one of the greatest listeners I've ever met. He really heard a person when he communicated with them. He supported the Theatre program with all his heart when he was associate dean at HFC, and was a consummate musician. I especially loved his interpretation of 1940s music. I have all his CDs and still listen to them regularly. Rick lives on in his gift of music to us.”

New scholarship in Rick's honor: the Rick Goward Scholarship

Rick Goward was an advocate for education, the arts, and helping students reach their full potential. In addition to teaching and conducting, he spent much of his life fundraising for college scholarships. The Goward family invites you to consider making a tax-deductible donation to a new fund in Rick’s honor. The fund will support students striving for higher education.

How to donate through our secure website

  1. Go to the HFC Foundation website donations page
  2. Select amount you wish to donate
  3. Under "Apply gift to," select "Other"
  4. Enter "Rick Goward Scholarship"

How to donate by check

  1. Make checks payable to Henry Ford College Foundation.
  2. Note "Rick Goward Scholarship" in the memo line.
  3. Mail to Henry Ford College Foundation, 5101 Evergreen Rd., Dearborn, MI 48128