Release Date: 
Monday, September 11, 2023

Al Burrell retires from HFC after 31 years

Al Burrell (left) and family smiling in front of a lit holiday tree.
From L-R: HFC Director of IT Application Services Al Burrell, his wife Michelle, and their daughter Emily.

A familiar face at the College since 1991, Al Burrell – HFC Director, IT Application Services, Data, and Voice Communications – will retire from the College on Monday, October 2.

“First and foremost, I enjoy the people I work with at HFC. I cannot say enough good things about them. They are dedicated and work extremely hard to ensure students have a great experience and can succeed,” said Burrell. “I will miss the people and watching the students grow as they start their educational journey.”

HFC Director, Network and IT Infrastructure Joe Zitnik has worked with Burrell since 2011.

“Al will always be honest with a moral compass that is unquestionable,” said Zitnik. “Al is not a ‘yes man.’ You can count on what you hear from Al as the truth as he sees it. He’s part mentor, part brother, part cheerleader, part counselor, and good-hearted. He’s a selfless person. He cares about the people around him. Al has changed the lives of the people in his department for the better, and he is one of the best men I have ever met.”

“I realized that HFC was an extraordinary place – I wanted to be part of the HFC team”

Born in Mt. Clemens, Burrell, the second of three siblings, graduated from Troy High School. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Michigan State University and his master’s degree in professional accountancy from Walsh College. He lives in Troy with Michelle, his wife of 30 years. They have one adult daughter, Emily, who is also an MSU graduate.

Burrell has more than 40 years of experience in the business and computer fields. From 1983-90, he worked at the Burroughs Corporation (formerly Unisys) in Detroit. He went on to become Vice President of Slideworks, Inc. in Rochester and then Lighthouse Presentation Services in Rochester. He worked as an independent computer consultant from 1992-2001.

He began teaching business courses at HFC (then Henry Ford Community College) in 1991. He also taught computer courses at the University of Michigan-Dearborn from 1995 to 2001.

“I worked as an adjunct faculty member for several years before being hired full-time in the IT department at the College,” said Burrell. “I loved being a part of the education system and being with the students. The people I worked with at HFC were dedicated and friendly and I realized that HFC was an extraordinary place – I wanted to be part of the HFC team!”

Providing users with information to improve decision-making

Burrell joined HFC full-time in 2001 as senior systems administrator. In 2011, he became the assistant director of IT Services. He held this position until 2014 when he was promoted to his current position. He reports to HFC Vice President of Financial, Facilities, IT, and Auxiliary Services John Satkowski.

“In the years that I have known Al, especially when the IT area became my responsibility, Al has demonstrated that he is a great IT Leader and team player who strives to improve operations for the College,” said Satkowski. “His role as the chair of the Information Technology Oversight Team (ITOT) has provided consistency in maintaining and implementing applications that benefit the College. Al’s primary goal has been to provide users with the information necessary to improve our decision-making when addressing student needs. His compassion and dedication will be missed. He will always be a great friend and I wish him well in retirement.”

“My position is responsible for overseeing the selection, implementation, and maintenance of administrative software that serves the business functions of the College,” explained Burrell. “This position provides guidance, direction, and leadership for IT strategic planning, long-term needs, execution, and implementation of IT systems in accordance with the mission and core values of the College.”

Burrell is responsible for the management, administration development, and support of the College’s Enterprise Resource Planning system (Ellucian modules) and its supporting systems. He oversees College accessibility functions. He also oversees multiple productions, tests, and development environments involving:

  • Application installations
  • Software upgrades
  • Migrations
  • Performance monitoring
  • Tuning
  • System replication

“I have been blessed to work with a great IT team,” said Burrell. “I would say everyone on the IT team are more like friends than just coworkers.”

IT is always changing

“One of the things I love about IT is that it is always changing, and one of the things I hate about IT is that it is always changing!” said Burrell. “Probably the biggest challenge is keeping up with developments in the IT industry because of how quickly it changes.”

HFC Senior Systems Administrator Jerry Kondraciuk has worked for Burrell for nearly 23 years.

“Al has built something special with the IT team,” said Kondraciuk. “This department used to be mostly contract positions. Al fought to convert these positions. By mid-2017, most contract positions were converted to full-time HFC union positions. He risked his job to secure a future for his team – the most unselfish thing someone could do. We are all grateful for what he has done for us. He has transformed the ITS department and put us on a path for future growth. Wishing you a long and happy retirement, Al; you deserve it!”

Boating, traveling, golfing, and reinventing himself

Throughout his 31 years at HFC, Burrell served on numerous committees at different times, including:

  • Coordinating Council
  • College Senate
  • College Constitution Committee
  • Strategic Planning
  • Financial Services Council
  • ITOT

Burrell was also active in the Local 71 union, where he held a number of positions including executive vice president, treasurer, and parliamentarian.

HFC Purchasing Director Fred Steiner has known Burrell for 31 years. Steiner called him his “go-to guy” for IT issues.

“He’s always willing to help, provide advice, and give thorough explanations,” said Steiner. “He provided invaluable help during the implementation of the Ellucian software system and with all of the upgrades and changes over the past 20 years. I served with Al on Local 71 committees and in Financial Services Council meetings. He always contributes with thoughtful comments, insight, and a good sense of humor. We’ve enjoyed trading stories about our families and how our kids were growing up. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting his lovely wife and wonderful daughter. Now that Al will have more time to spend with them, I wish him a long and happy retirement!”

Burrell spoke about why he decided to retire.

“I still love working at HFC and am retiring now because it is time to start a new journey and enjoy some things I have not yet had a chance to enjoy,” he said. “I plan to spend time boating, traveling, maybe doing some golfing, and reinventing myself to see where this new journey takes me. I would like to thank everyone at HFC for a blessed time working with them and for being a part of HFC for more than three decades.”

Please join us for Al Burrell's retirement party on September 29.

There will be an open house to celebrate Al's 31 years at HFC on Friday, September 29, from noon to 3:00 p.m. Join us in the Community Rooms of the Welcome Center.