DEARBORN — The Association of Community College Trustees announced that Henry Ford College Executive Assistant to the President Kathy Dimitriou will be presented the Professional Board Staff Member Award for the Central Region at its fall meeting.
This national award is presented to a board staff member in recognition of exemplary service to a governing board. Dimitriou has provided service to the HFC Board of Trustees for many years. The board oversees not only HFC, but also the Dearborn Public Schools. HFC is the only remaining community college in the State of Michigan to be directly affiliated with a P-12 school district.
“I’m honored and humbled,” said Dimitriou, of Livonia. “I have to confess that this award was a nice surprise. I certainly wasn’t expecting it. I have really enjoyed working in the education field, helping to fulfill the HFC mission of student success. It has been a joy to watch students learn, graduate, and move on with their lives successfully.”
The award also highlights Dimitriou’s broader service to three college presidents and to the college community as she concludes her career. Dimitriou will retire Sept. 29 after 46 years in a variety of roles with the college and the school district. Her retirement plans include traveling with Chris, her husband of 46 years with whom they have two children, and spending more time with their grandchildren.
“It is very gratifying to get this award as I’m retiring this fall,” she said.
This is not the only recognition Dimitriou received this year. In late March at the HFC Women’s Recognition Luncheon, she was publicly recognized for her decades of service.
“Kathy’s career and dedication are simply unmatched,” Board Chair James Thorpe said. “Her position entails a unique challenge, at which she shines.”
Dimitriou began working for Dearborn Public Schools as a student employee during her days at Fordson High School, starting out on a typewriter while listening to a dictaphone. Today, she manages virtual meetings and monitors live-chat features via several platforms.
“Kathy has successfully led these logistical processes while making it look effortless,” Thorpe said.
Dimitriou was hired full-time in 1975 as a secretary in the HFC (then Henry Ford Community College) Technical Division. She moved to the school district when she started her family so that she could have summers and holidays off to spend with her children. She returned to HFC in 2007 once her children were grown.
Since 2013, she has served as the executive assistant in the Office of the President. In that decade, she has served three college presidents: Stanley Jensen, Interim President John Satkowski, and Russell Kavalhuna, as well as 16 elected trustees (seven trustees serve on the board at any given time).
“With nearly 1,000 employees and more than 12,000 students, Kathy has single-handedly managed the work that many institutions of our size have two or more people performing,” Thorpe said. “She has the rare skills of adapting and learning; she has grown as the job continues to change.
“Just three years ago she sprang into action when the pandemic hit and was able to pull together a new routine of communicating as a team with employees, board members, and the community by utilizing three different platforms. She has given our board unparalleled service during her tenure and has always maintained the utmost trust and respect.”
Thorpe spoke for the rest of the board when he said Dimitriou’s retirement is bittersweet for them. They are happy for her to begin the next chapter in her life: retirement. But they will miss having her as a colleague and will find her hard to replace.
“Serving and supporting a college president and the president’s office is hard work, especially at the close distance of the sole administrative assistant,” Kavalhuna said. “It is so difficult that many in her role are not asked to stay on when a new chief executive replaces a predecessor. It is a stunning testament to her performance that three presidents, including me, have kept Kathy at their side when they were tasked to lead our College.
“And we three presidents are very different leaders. Yet Kathy earned and held unwavering trust from all of us. She also skillfully adjusted her own tendencies to serve our different styles. I cannot imagine the whiplash it must have been to serve such different leaders. But you would not have known a thing changed if you saw how well Kathy supported us.”
When Kavalhuna began at HFC in 2018, it was his first time in a chief executive role. Dimitriou’s support made a big difference for him, ensuring a smooth transition between HFC’s top leaders, he said.
“Together, we have made great strides and the college is in a great place,” he said. “Kathy has been at my side the entire way, putting her own interests behind my own.
I have worked as an airline captain, a federal prosecutor, and a college president, and I have never seen such a pivotal case of courageous loyalty and selflessness. Her support to me and the college has always been at that level. She is an amazing teammate and wonderful employee. She is very deserving of such a prestigious award and her upcoming retirement.”