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Alumnus shares stories from the White House

Kenneth Hafeli, Macomb alumnus, has shook hands with Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter many times, is Facebook friends with former first daughter Susan Ford and counts the archivist at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California as one of his best friends.

It was all part of the job for Hafeli, who served as head archivist at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor until his retirement last May. He shared his interesting perspective in a talk: Growing up Grand: Gerald R. Ford’s Michigan, on Oct. 6 at the Lorenzo Cultural Center, as part of its The President’s Photographer exhibit. 

“I really enjoyed helping someone find a letter they sent to President Ford when he was in office, or a photo of a particular day when they visited the White House,” relates Hafeli. “People are so excited when they discover that stuff is still here.”
Following his presidency, seven Roadway trucks with a military escort brought Ford’s papers and photographs from Washington, D.C., to the library in Ann Arbor. There was much that was still classified as confidential at the time and Hafeli had to have security

clearance before accepting the delivery.

“Still,” he said, “I couldn’t see two thirds of it.”

Hafeli worked at the Ford Library for nearly 39 years, arriving there fresh from Michigan Technological University, which he transferred to from Macomb. And as easily as he can relate significant moments in Ford’s presidency, Hafeli can list Macomb faculty who influenced his intellectual development while a student here.

“Jacobs, Hannert, Barrons, Ritas,” offers the 1973 Macomb graduate. “I enjoyed their classes and still have some of their handouts.”

As department head at the Ford Library, Hafeli was part of an elite group of 3,600 that constitute the federal National Archives and Records Administration. And, as one might expect, it’s the type of job that can leave you speechless now and then.

“I was awed sometimes,” acknowledges Hafeli, “touching something that the president once held in his hands.”

Kenneth Hafeli