Russ Kavalhuna, J.D., has been the president of Henry Ford College since 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.
His core focus at Henry Ford College is student success. This includes building public and private partnerships, expanding funding and resources for college access, mentoring students, and leading innovations in the individualized services that support every student along their path to a successful professional and personal life.
Before becoming president at Henry Ford College, Mr. Kavalhuna was 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 May 2021, Governor Gretchen Whitmer appointed Mr. Kavalhuna to the Michigan Council for Rehabilitation Services. In May 2020, Governor Gretchen Whitmer appointed Mr. Kavalhuna to the new statewide Workforce Development Board, with a mission of advancing the development and continuous improvement of the workforce development system in Michigan. In January 2020, Mr. Kavalhuna was selected to join the inaugural cohort of the Aspen New Presidents Fellowship for Community College Excellence. 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. Earlier 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.
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. 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 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.
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.
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.
Mr. Kavalhuna earned his undergraduate degree in aviation science from Western Michigan University. He earned his juris doctor from WMU Cooley Law School. He finished third in his class and was selected by his classmates as the Valedictorian speaker.