Russ Kavalhuna

2020-21 Aspen New Presidents Fellow
Russell Kavalhuna joined Henry Ford College as 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 community college, he believes that community colleges are the gateway to the American Dream.

Mr. Kavalhuna was previously the executive director of flight operations at the Western Michigan University College of Aviation, where he taught in the curriculum.
In 2018, then-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 talent and workforce development. In 2018, Governor Rick Snyder appointed Mr. Kavalhuna to Michigan’s 21st Century Talent Creation Subcommittee.

As a former airline pilot, Mr. Kavalhuna is currently serving a fourth term on Michigan’s statewide board for aviation infrastructure spending and rulemaking. Governor Jennifer Granholm appointed him to the Aeronautics Commission in 2009, and Governor Rick Snyder reappointed him in 2013 and 2017. Presidents Bill 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 a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice, where he managed more than 140 officers in a multiyear investigation and prosecution of 31 gang members. Mr. Kavalhuna 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. 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.