President Kavalhuna's Biography
Russell A. Kavalhuna, J.D., joined Henry Ford College as the institution's sixth president in July 2018. The role unites his passions for public service, education, and institutional leadership. As the son of an immigrant who attended a Michigan community college, he believes the community college model of education and service is the gateway to the American Dream.
He was previously the Executive Director of Flight Operations at the Western Michigan University College of Aviation, the nation’s third-largest collegiate aviation program. He also taught a course in the curriculum.
Prior to his position at WMU, Mr. Kavalhuna was a federal prosecutor and a commercial airline captain.
In 2018, Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer’s transition team selected Mr. Kavalhuna for consultation on higher-education policy. He continues to offer the Governor’s office insight on the intersection of education, statewide-talent development, and workforce development.
In 2018, Governor Rick Snyder appointed Mr. Kavalhuna to Michigan’s 21st Century Talent Creation Subcommittee, which includes industry executives, labor leaders, educators, lawmakers, and representatives of various state agencies. The Subcommittee focuses on changing demands for skills and how collaboration with educators can quickly prepare students for rapidly changing workplaces.
Mr. Kavalhuna is currently serving a fourth term on the statewide board for all aviation infrastructure spending and rule making, the Michigan Aeronautics Commission, which oversees a budget of $100 million. Governor Jennifer Granholm appointed him to the Aeronautics Commission in 2009, and Governor Rick Snyder reappointed him in 2013 and 2017. He has served as Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Aeronautics Commission on multiple occasions. He has chaired the Commission’s subcommittees on General Aviation and Commercial Aviation, producing a statewide report on commercial aviation.
Presidents William J. Clinton and George W. Bush selected Mr. Kavalhuna to serve in the second class of their Presidential Leadership Scholars program in 2016. Mr. Kavalhuna has served as an alumni mentor to subsequent classes in the leadership program, which serves as a catalyst for a diverse network of leaders brought together to collaborate and make a difference in the world as they learn about leadership through the lens of the presidential experiences of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Lyndon B. Johnson.
Mr. Kavalhuna served as a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he managed more than 140 officers in a multi-year investigation and prosecution of 31 gang members. He was a senior lawyer for the Michigan Supreme Court, and he has taught at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.
As a pilot, he served as first officer and captain for U.S. Airways Express for five years. He also held a leadership position in the Airline Pilots Association collective bargaining unit.
Mr. Kavalhuna earned his undergraduate degree in aviation science from Western Michigan University. He earned his juris doctor from WMU Cooley Law School, finishing third in his class and being selected by his classmates as the Valedictorian Speaker.
His awards and honors include the Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, the highest civilian license; the ATF National Honor Award for Prosecution of Organized Crime; the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Holland Police Department; and being named as an “Up and Coming Lawyer” by Michigan Lawyers Weekly.
President Kavalhuna, his wife, Courtney, and their children are proud residents of Dearborn.
Russell Kavalhuna (center) with former Presidents Bill Clinton (left) and George W. Bush (right).
Russell Kavalhuna (right) with Courtney Kavalhuna and former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
Russell Kavalhuna and Courtney Kavalhuna (fifth and sixth from left) with the cast of HFC's production of The Laramie Project.
President Kavalhuna's first day on campus in July 2018, meeting students in the HFC Culinary program.
Russell Kavalhuna and a student show their HFC Hawks spirit.
Russell Kavalhuna meets new students during HFC Discover Day, Fall 2018.
Courtney Kavalhuna (center) and Board of Trustees Chair Michael Meade (right) invest Russell Kavalhuna with the Presidential Medallion during his October 2018 Investiture.
HFC Trustees (L-R) Michael Meade, Celia Nasser, Mary Petlichkoff, James Thorpe, and Fadwa Hammoud stand on the dais with Courtney Kavalhuna and with Russell Kavalhuna at his October 2018 Investiture.
President Russell Kavalhuna speaks at his October 2018 Investiture.