University of Michigan appoints Santa Ono as new president

Santa J. Ono, an accomplished biomedical researcher and the president and vice chancellor of the University of British Columbia, has been named the 15th president of the University of Michigan.As president, Ono is responsible for the general oversight of the university’s teaching and research programs, as well as the libraries, museums and other supporting services. His duties also include overseeing the general welfare of the faculty and staff, health and order among students, and the university’s financial stability.

Ono, who previously served as the president of the University of Cincinnati and senior vice provost and deputy to the provost at Emory University, will officially step into the U-M role Oct. 13.

Ono, 59, is an experienced vision researcher whose pioneering work in experimental medicine focuses on the immune system and eye disease. His track record of leadership at universities in the United States and Canada includes prioritizing sustainability efforts, strong advocacy for mental health issues and an open communication style.

He also has focused on accessibility and affordability in higher education through service in organizations such as the Posse Foundation, leadership of the Urban Health Initiative of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities and launching new programs at the universities he has served. At UBC, he led substantial efforts focused on truth and reconciliation for indigenous groups and others.

Ono is the leader of the University Climate Change Coalition, a network that connects 23 of the world’s leading research universities and university systems committed to accelerating climate action. Times Higher Education ranked UBC among the top seven universities in the world in its “Impact Rankings” in each of the past four years for taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Ono also serves as chair of the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities, a collective of research-intensive institutions similar to the Association of American Universities.

Ono, who is of Japanese heritage, is the first Asian American to lead U-M. He was born in Vancouver and grew up in Pennsylvania and Maryland, and earned a bachelor’s degree in biological science at the University of Chicago and a doctorate in experimental medicine from McGill University in Montreal.

He has taught at Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University and University College London. While at the University of Cincinnati, he also served as a professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Ono is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, National Academy of Inventors and Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars. He also is a recipient of the Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award from the American Council on Education. Earlier this year, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

“Several clear and consistent themes emerged in regard to what our community wanted in a new leader,” said Regent Denise Ilitch, who with Regent Sarah Hubbard co-chaired the search committee to select the new president. “Someone who could build trust, lead with integrity and actively engage the full range of Michigan’s constituencies. Someone who had strong emotional intelligence and communication and listening skills. “It is readily apparent to me after getting to know Dr. Ono and learning about his experiences as a university administrator, that he is the right person to lead the University of Michigan at this moment in time. I’m confident that the finalist seated before us today is the right choice for the University of Michigan.”

“The University of Michigan is recognized worldwide as being at the pinnacle of public higher education,” Ono said. “It is a singular honor to be chosen to lead such an extraordinary institution. I look forward to embracing the university community and supporting their education, scholarship, innovation and service.”