Santa J. Ono, Ph.D., is president-elect of the University of Michigan. He will begin a five-year term as the university’s 15th president on Oct. 14, 2022.
Ono, 59, currently is the 15th president and vice chancellor of the University of British Columbia, where he has served since 2016. He is an experienced vision researcher whose pioneering work in experimental medicine focuses on the immune system and eye disease.
He also serves as chair of the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities, on the board of directors of Universities Canada and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and as past chair of Research Universities of British Columbia. He is the leader of the University Climate Change Coalition and a member of the International Advisory Board of Keio University, Terramera Strategic Advisory Board, Steering Committee of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities, the Government of Canada’s Industry Advisory Ad Hoc Roundtable on COVID-19 Testing, and the boards of Fulbright Canada and Mitacs.
He has served on the boards of the American Council on Education and the Council on Competitiveness, as chief innovation adviser to the Province of British Columbia, and as co-chair of the Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Policy for the Government of Canada.
Prior to his appointment as president and vice chancellor of UBC, Ono served as the 28th president of the University of Cincinnati and senior vice provost and deputy to the provost at Emory University. He also served as professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
While serving at the University of Cincinnati, he was appointed by Gov. John Kasich to lead Ohio’s Biopharmaceutical Task Force and to the Board of the Ohio Third Frontier – Ohio’s technology-based economic development program.
A vision researcher educated at the University of Chicago and McGill University, Ono has taught at Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University and University College London. He has advised national and regional governments on higher education and mental health. He also has advised companies such as GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Novartis, and served as director and chief scientific officer of iCo Therapeutics.
Ono has served on the editorial boards for a number of peer-reviewed medical and scientific journals, including Immunology, The Journal of Biological Chemistry, The Journal of Immunology and The Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.
He has been inducted as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, the National Academy of Inventors, USA and the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars. In 2022, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
He holds honorary doctorates from Chiba University and the Vancouver School of Theology and is a recipient of the Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award from the American Council on Education, the Professional Achievement Award from University of Chicago, a Grand Challenges Hero Award from UCLA and the NAAAP 100 Award from the National Association of Asian American Professionals.
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Thank you, President Coleman, for your support and leadership of this great institution.
I want to thank the Board of Regents and the Presidential Search Committee for this tremendous privilege and honor to serve what I think is the greatest public university in the world. The University of Michigan is known worldwide as an exceptional place for learning, teaching, healing and service across this great state, across this great nation, and around the world, and I am humbled and honored to be named its 15th president.
This is a remarkable day for me and for my family. Wendy, thank you so much for being with me today.
I grew up on a college campus – the wonderful institution which is the University of British Columbia. I know that a lot of people are watching from Vancouver and from UBC, and I want to start off by saying it’s been and honor and a privilege to serve you. I’m thinking of you on this day.
On that campus in Vancouver, that’s where I first learned to ride my bike, amongst students and the beautiful trees on that campus around Main Mall, and its old academic buildings. I’m a professor’s child. My father was a mathematics professor there and from those very early days on that campus, I’ve always loved the energy of a great public research university.
I have always known that universities can and do transform the world for the better.
This place, Michigan, that I’ve been able to visit many times, is a very special place. It feels very right to me. It has a unique energy that conveys a sense of purpose to everyone, from a first-year student to the president of the institution. It is a pinnacle of public higher education and an inspiration to institutions around the world.
Michigan is one of the world’s great public universities. It has an unrivaled research enterprise that everyday results in innovations and discoveries that shape the future. And that stretches all the way from medicine and engineering to the arts and humanities, and the social sciences. The breadth and depth of the intellectual capital of this great institution, and the energy of the students, is what attracts me here.
Students and scholars are eager to come here to engage and to contribute, and I can’t wait to partner and to interact with students of this great institution on all the campuses of the University of Michigan. And everyone knows the power of the maize and blue when it comes to big time and Big Ten intercollegiate athletics.
The breadth and quality of activity here makes this university exceptional and so integral to this society, to this state, but also to the world.
Michigan embodies leadership. Many things have started at this great institution, with speeches from people like President Kennedy, with the inspiration of Gerald Ford, as a Wolverine but also as president of this great nation.
Our world has changed in the last two-and-a-half years. We’ve navigated that together on all the campuses of the great universities of this world. Covid has transformed how we live and how we work. So, too, has a heightened awareness during this time about racial and ethnic inequities across this nation and, indeed, around the world. We are and we should be more cognizant than ever of the irreparable damage we are doing to our planet with this climate emergency.
This may discourage some people. Not me.
This is the University of Michigan. This is where the leaders and best reside, and where leaders and best graduate from. This institution has the ability, through the intellectual capital of the faculty and staff and students, to really address these existential challenges that affect this world. We will do so together.
To me, even though there are challenges, this is an incredibly exciting time to be a student, to be a professor, and even to be a university president.
I fiercely believe that higher education – through our scholarship, our service, and through our graduates – can deliver the changes we need to build a healthy, sustainable, and just community, focusing on those very vexing, existential challenges that lie before us.
Have no doubt that I am eager to get started and join this extraordinary community.
My job as president will be to make this great university ever greater, even stronger, more engaged, and more inclusive. I want to amplify Michigan’s impact on this great state, this great nation, and the world.
I am excited about the challenges and the opportunities to work with and to support the faculty, students, staff, and 600,000 alumni around the world. My job is just not to lead, in partnership with the regents and senates and student associations of this institution. My primary responsibility is to serve. To serve each and every one of you. It’s a privilege to be associated with such a great community of scholars.
I’ve learned in a very short time that there is great pride in being associated with the University of Michigan, and rightly so. This is a stunning institution, by any measure
To our students in the audience and perhaps watching by livestream, or perhaps watching on YouTube later, I want to say I understand the joy and sense of accomplishment that comes with pursuing your passions at such a great research university. I know how bright you are. I know how passionate you are. I have daughters around your age.
But I also know that although this is an amazing experience that there are struggles and, perhaps through this pandemic, a sense of isolation that you sometimes can feel. As it’s been mentioned, I felt that way as an adolescent and as a young adult. I pledge to you today that as president, I will make certain that this university is always there for you, on good days and bad, so that you can succeed and thrive to the maximum potential that you’ve demonstrated to us from the moment you expressed an interest in coming to Michigan.
I want to thank President Mary Sue Coleman for the many conversations that we’ve already had in recent weeks will have into the future. I know how well regarded she is, both here on campus and throughout higher education. I’ve had a chance to interact with her when she was president of the AAU. I also know what matters to the most to this community is that she has been selfless in returning to lead this university for a second time as president.
Mary Sue, I will seek your advice but I also will respect your much-deserved retirement. Ladies and gentlemen, please give Mary Sue a round of applause.
Going forward, all of us have a lot of time to get to know each other. That story and that video about crowd surfing at Nippert was true. I know the Big House is quite a bit bigger – 115,000, I hear, they say the biggest stadium in North American and the second biggest stadium in the world. I don’t know if students will remember this announcement that I did that, but we can talk about that later.
I want to end with a little about myself.
I’m the husband to Wendy, my better half, and a father to two wonderful daughters, Juliana and Sarah. Juliana just got married to David Chang. You heard about my father, a professor of mathematics, Takashi. I also have a mother, Sachiko. I wouldn’t be anywhere without her today. My brother Momoro, my older brother, is a professor of piano at Creighton. And my younger brother Ken is a brilliant mathematician at the University of Virginia. By the way, he wants to come to this game between UVA and Michigan, and Michigan’s going to win by a lot.
Education has always been integral to our family.
I live to serve and I believe in leading by example. I will give 150 percent for the University of Michigan.
As of today, I am proud to be a Michigan Wolverine.
Thank you. And Go Blue!
Record: Regents appoint Santa Ono as University of Michigan’s next president
Voices of support
I join many Canadians in expressing my appreciation for Dr. Santa J. Ono, an accomplished academic whose leadership and significant contributions to education in Canada – including those made through his tireless efforts at the University of British Columbia – will be remembered for years to come. I wish him well following his recent appointment as President-Elect of the University of Michigan.
— Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
As an alumna of the University of Michigan (Ph.D., 1981), I am so pleased to see Santa Ono become the next president. We were a great team when I served as provost during his tenure as president of the University of Cincinnati. He became a national name to watch as we set record-breaking enrollments and increased rankings, faculty diversity, research expenditures, student success and more. He is just the leader U-M needs now.
— Beverly Davenport, former chancellor, University of Tennessee, and former provost, University of Cincinnati
I have known Santa for the past seven years, first in my capacity as president and CEO of the Canada Foundation for Innovation and more recently as executive director of the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities.
Santa is an inspiring leader who cares deeply about the mission of universities – learning, discovery and engagement. Santa makes a point to celebrate the success of students, faculty members and staff in each of these three pillars. In his capacity as chair of the U15, Santa led several important dossiers for the benefit of research-intensive universities in Canada, including research security, EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion at all levels of the academe), international research partnerships and support for innovation and foundational research.
— Gilles Patry, professor emeritus and president emeritus, University of Ottawa
Santa and I worked together on the Executive Committee of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities when he was president of University of Cincinnati, and we’ve kept in touch since then. An accomplished researcher and proven administrative leader, he stands alone in his ability to connect with students. University of Michigan hit a home run on this one.
— M. Roy Wilson, president, Wayne State University
When Dr. Santa Ono served as provost and president at the University of Cincinnati, I worked closely with him for seven years as dean of the university’s most diverse college. In those years, we accomplished audacious goals in student success, access, affordability, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Santa and I were committed to the recruitment and retention of more diverse faculty, staff, and students, as well as creating a culture where everyone belonged and could do their best work. You’ll find Santa’s student-centeredness and positive energy to be highly contagious — I recommend that all Wolverines buy new running shoes and take high-octane vitamins soon to prepare for the Ono effect!
— Cady Short-Thompson, executive director, Breakthrough Cincinnati; former dean, UC Blue Ash College at the University of Cincinnati; mother of two current U-M students
Sincere thanks & farewell to @ubcprez Santa Ono. A tireless educator, in & beyond the classroom — from his commitment to making @UBC one of the best universities in the world, to his constant partnership on the UBCx Skytrain extension. You will be missed.
— Kennedy Stewart, mayor, City of Vancouver
Just a note of congratulations on your appointment at the University of Michigan. It is, of course, one of this nation’s premier universities – not simply a premier public university. And, you come at a time that is tumultuous for the university, for higher education, and for leadership in this nation. But, you bring a great spirit of leadership and a soft touch and I know that you will do very well. In fact, I think you will be exactly the right person at the right time.
I so enjoyed our time together in Ohio and look forward to an opportunity when we can visit again.
By the way, I saw that in your picture you were wearing a long tie. Remember that bow ties are a mark of greatness.
— E. Gordon Gee, president, West Virginia University; former president, Ohio State University
I’m writing to congratulate you on your appointment as president-elect of the University of Michigan. Michigan is an exceptional institution with a distinguished history and extraordinary breadth and depth, and the school is fortunate to have you as its next leader.
— A. Paul Alivisatos, president, University of Chicago
I’m writing to join what I am sure is a large chorus of people sending congratulations on your appointment. As a Michigander, I can tell you that there will be much to look forward to in your new home. I wish you every success.
— Lawrence S. Bacow, president, Harvard University
Congratulations on your move to the president of the University of Michigan. As you know that I went the Ohio State University for my graduate work, and
Michigan was the center of voting behavior studies in the U.S. and in the world. So, I have been feeling the U. of Michigan very close to me, and I respect the U. of Michigan tremendously.
— Aiji Tanaka, president, Waseda University, Tokyo, and past-president, International Political Science Association
Congratulations on your appointment as president of the University of Michigan. You did a marvelous job at UBC and you will undoubtedly be a huge success at Michigan.
— Jeffrey P. Koplan, professor of medicine and global health, Emory University
Please accept my warmest congratulations on the announcement of your appointment to the presidency of the University of Michigan. I can think of no one better suited for such a tremendous honor and responsibility. Your extraordinary record of academic leadership is only matched by your integrity and care for the communities under your charge. The University of Michigan is fortunate to have you at the helm as it embarks on the next phase of its evolutionary journey.
Again, congratulations on this exciting new role. I wish you all the best on your transition. Your presidency will mark a great new chapter for the university and the Ann Arbor community.
— Joseph E. Aoun, president, Northeastern University
On behalf of the entire NAI team, we would like to congratulate you on your recent appointment as the president for the University of Michigan. With your tremendous background, hard work and dedication, we know you have worked diligently to receive this well-deserved recognition. It is a great pleasure to see your efforts be rewarded in such a prestigious way. Please accept our best wishes for your success in this new position.
— Paul Sanberg, president, National Academy of Inventors
I am delighted to learn that you will serve as Michigan’s next president. I spent 17 very happy and very productive years there – as a faculty member, department chair, dean, vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs, and finally provost – before coming to Cornell as president five years ago. Michigan is a truly remarkable university, without question one of the best in the world, and one that not only has amazing academic strengths, but also strong core values that align with what I understand are yours.
So I’m writing to congratulate you, and also to say that if I can be of any assistance as your transition there, please don’t hesitate to contact me. In addition to my nearly two decades working at Michigan, both my adult children are alumni, one with a B.S. and the other with a B.A., MPH, and Ph.D., so I know the university very well and can provide an insider perspective on any questions you might have.
— Martha Pollack, President and Professor of Computer Science, Information Science and Linguistics, Cornell University
I would like to congratulate you on your being named the next president of the University of Michigan. That esteemed institution is very lucky to have you taking its lead.
In your role as the next president, you will certainly be able to deliver on the Michigan promise of an uncommon education for the common person. I wish you all of the best in helping Michigan be the best version of itself – for its students, faculty, staff and the greater community. If I can ever be of service to you, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
— Andrew T. Hsu, president, College of Charleston
I am pleased to share congratulations and best wishes to Sant Ono on his new role as president of the University of Michigan, with much gratitude for his service to British Columbians through his work at the University of British Columbia and beyond.
— Janet Austin, lieutenant governor, Province of British Columbia.
I would like to congratulate you on your presidency at the University of Michigan in October. I am very excited by this wonderful news. There is no doubt the U-M would be so pleased to welcome you as a new president and they will benefit a great deal from your leadership.
I am very happy to know that the U-M has a new extraordinary leader, while the UBC would miss you as a wonderful leader. Congratulations again on your great move.
— Sawako Shirahase, professor of sociology, University of Tokyo, senior vice-rector, United Nations University
I jumped up from my computer chair and cheered when I read that you will be the U of M’s next president! With three advanced degrees from Michigan (1969, 1971, and 1976), I am so very pleased that you will represent my alma mater! What a coup for Michigan and what a statement about who you are! Kudos.
— Ken Stein, professor emeritus of Middle Eastern history, political science and Israel studies, Emory University, and president, Center for Israel Education
Santa helped transform UBC in its approach to race and equity and energized our responsibility to help deal with pressing societal needs, from dealing with climate change to anti-racism efforts that bring the capacity of universities to help support positive social change. We are thankful for his vision and U-M can look forward to an outstanding communicator and empathetic leader.
— Henry Yu, associate professor of history, University of British Columbia, and principal of St. John’s College at UBC
From all of us at the Digital Supercluster, thank you @ubcprez for your time as President and Vice-Chancellor at @UBC. Your accomplishments have made a lasting impact, and we know you’ll achieve the same in your new role at @UMich. Best of luck!
— Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster
Congratulations on your appointment as the 15th president of the University of Michigan. I believe that your extensive experience and open-minded spirit will cultivate the highest academic standard and an inclusive campus culture that is transparent and full of trust. Also, it has been a great honor to work with you during your leadership at the University of British Columbia, which made many remarkable accomplishments in education and research beyond traditional boundaries.
Once again, congratulations on your appointment. I wish you every success.
— Shojiro Nishio, president, Osaka University
Thank you to @santajono for your thoughtful leadership over six years @UBC, and for being a tireless champion of research, students, #EDI, and mental health.Grateful for your friendship, and wishing you well as you take on this new challenge.
— Kirsty Duncan, Member of Parliament and deputy leader of the Canadian government in the House of Commons
I was delighted to learn that you will be the next president of the University of Michigan. This is one more recognition of your outstanding career in academia. Michigan is my alma mater, where I earned two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. and was subsequently granted an honorary doctorate. I enjoyed an outstanding experience as a student there and benefited enormously from the wisdom of my mentors. Congratulations to you and to the entire Michigan community.
— Julio Frenk, president, University of Miami
Congratulations on your appointment as President-elect of the University of Michigan. As a relative newcomer to Michigan myself, I’m happy to help in any way I can as you make the transition into your new role. I look forward to meeting you personally, and welcoming you to the ranks of Michigan’s university presidents. We’re lucky to have you joining us in our collective efforts to elevate education and create equity for students within this state and beyond.
— Philomena V. Mantella, president, Grand Valley State University
On behalf of the University of Waterloo, I wish to extend our heartfelt congratulations on your recent appointment as President of the University of Michigan.
While we will miss your leadership and dedication to post-secondary education and research in Canada—particularly with respect to your role as U15 Chair and your advocacy for mental health and equity, diversity and inclusion —your move will bring you closer to Southern Ontario, and I hope we can continue to collaborate and uncover opportunities for our institutions, faculty and students.
It has been a privilege to cross paths with you in our careers as university administrators. Each of these interactions has solidified my impression of your integrity and overall commitment to improving the experience of students, faculty and staff. Together, we share a desire to see these individuals grow and prosper in their chosen fields and ultimately lead initiatives that make the world a better place.
— Vivek Goel, president and vice-chancellor, University of Waterloo
Congratulations on your appointment to the University of Michigan. You will distinguish yourself splendidly as you have in all your responsibilities.
— David Johnston, former Governor General of Canada
A belated welcome to Michigan! Your background is quite perfect to lead a complex university like Michigan! When your welcoming calendar calms down a bit, we should get together.
— James Duderstadt, president emeritus, University of Michigan
I want to thank Santa Ono for his outstanding leadership as the president of the University of British Columbia. Ono joined UBC in 2016, and during his tenure he has made a lasting impact on students’ lives. Under his leadership, UBC has continued to grow its academic offerings while building infrastructure, such as new student housing, academic centres and research facilities.
Among his many accomplishments, he was instrumental in shaping UBC’s strategic plan and the university’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He established a climate action plan and introduced the Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Task Force to address systemic racism. His vision truly will have positive impacts on the lives of students for years to come.
In addition to all this work, Ono led the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring UBC continued to support students and the province in the best possible way.
Thank you, Santa Ono, for your commitment to lifelong learning. We wish you all the best with your next chapter as president of the University of Michigan.
— Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training, Government of British Columbia
I write to congratulate you on your appointment as president of the University of Michigan. I wish you continued success in this important new role. Let me take this opportunity to say how wonderful it has been to work together in the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities. Congratulations as well, on all you have accomplished at the helm of the University of British Columbia – you have left an indelible mark on UBC and on Canadian higher education. We are so pleased to count you among McGill’s distinguished graduates.
— Suzanne Fortier, principal and vice-chancellor, McGill University
I send my warm congratulations on your appointment as the next president of the University of Michigan. I have such fond memories of my time there, and it is a pleasure to think of you soon stepping into this role. If there is any way I can be helpful to you as you begin preparing for life in Ann Arbor, please don’t hesitate to ask. I wish you all the best and look forward to staying in touch.
— Lee C. Bollinger, president and Seth Low Professor of the University, Columbia University, and former president, University of Michigan
As premier of British Columbia, I want to thank you for your years of leadership at the University of British Columbia and extend to you my sincerest best wishes as you move on to your exciting new role as president of the University of Michigan.
As UBC president, you fostered the advancement of academic culture through critical and vital initiatives. Under your committed stewardship, UBC developed visionary and inclusive programs, received historic levels of financial support and significantly increased both tenured faculty and student attendance.
Your contributions have been extensive and even more commendable under the challenge of a global pandemic. Your role in supporting truth and reconciliation by being the first university in North America to commit to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, addressing systemic racism, and developing a climate action plan are all key contributions that will greatly benefit the UBC community and the province for years to come.
Thank you, again, for your service, and congratulations on your new position!
— John Horgan, premier of British Columbia
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Thank you, President Coleman, and thank you to those who have joined us here in University Hall or are watching via livestream. This is truly a historic day for the University of Michigan.
Nearly two and a half centuries ago, before even our Constitution, Thomas Jefferson’s writings inspired the Continental Congress to ratify The Northwest Ordinance, which created the Northwest Territory and ultimately the states that lay in its lands.
The first article of the ordinance prohibited slavery in these territories, and promised religious toleration for any person regardless of that person’s mode of worship or religious sentiment.
The second article announced a series of rights, including the right to political equality.
The third article famously decreed that “religion, morality and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
Less than three decades later, the founders of our state, funded primarily by proceeds from land given by Anishinaabeg and Wyandot tribes, following the directive of the Founding Fathers of our nation, created the mechanism to found the University of Michigan, in Detroit, as a distinctly public institution, with the sole purpose to serve the public good.
In the two centuries since our founding, the people of Michigan, through this institution, have lived up to the charge of serving the public good by educating business people whose companies employ thousands. By supporting scholars whose work has bettered the lives of millions. By providing healthcare professionals and researchers whose care and discoveries have saved the lives of billions. The University’s graduates and faculty have famously founded the most valuable company on earth, helped cure polio, filled every seat on a spacecraft to the moon, ascended to the Presidency of the United States, and even won 7 Super Bowls and counting. But I am most proud that the people of Michigan, through this institution, have served the public good by educating many of our communities’ mothers, fathers, and children; doctors and nurses, teachers and coaches, police officers and service members.
Over these two centuries, and this institution’s many contributions to the public good, it is hard to believe that the people of Michigan have entrusted the presidency of this institution to only 14 men and women. That is probably why it is important to remind us all that the Michigan Constitution provides that ‘the Board of Regents shall have general supervision of its institution and the control and direction of all expenditures from the institution’s funds.’ The Board of Regents ‘shall, as often as necessary, elect a president of the institution, under its supervision. He or she shall be the principal executive officer of the institution, be ex-officio a member of the board, without the right to vote, and preside at meetings of the board.’
We, as Regents, take this constitutional duty seriously and recognize it as our most important responsibility. As the current chair of the Board of Regents, and as a member of the Presidential Advisory Search Committee, I am pleased to announce that we have completed the search process and have identified Dr. Santa Ono as our finalist for election as the 15th President of the University of Michigan.
On behalf of all of us seated here and the entire University of Michigan community, here and around the globe, I’d like to extend my warmest welcome to Dr. Santa Ono and his wife, Wendy, who has joined him today – welcome! We look forward to meeting your daughters Sarah and Juliana, and son-in-law David, very soon. We are thrilled and honored to have you here today and to welcome all of you to the University of Michigan family! I know you will continue to help us serve the public good.
The process of getting to this moment required thoughtfulness and diligence on the part of our search committee co-chairs, Regent Denise Ilitch and Regent and Board Vice Chair Sarah Hubbard, and I’d like to thank them now for their steadfast leadership and commitment to this work. I’d also like to thank the members of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, for they were the compass that guided this process and choice.
— Paul W. Brown, Board Chair
Regent Hubbard and I had the pleasure and privilege, on behalf of the board, of leading the Presidential Advisory Search Committee which first met in February and has convened dozens of times since then to identify and review potential candidates and make recommendations to the board. In fact, we had 30 presidential search meetings.
From the outset, it was important to us that this was an inclusive process. Our committee included faculty, staff, students and alumni from across U-M’s three campuses and health system and was widely representative of our diverse university community. This was a team effort. You can see their names on the screen.
I’d like to ask them to stand and please give them a round of applause for all of their time, energy and hard work, especially our student members.
The search committee hosted seven listening sessions earlier this year to collect input from members of the community about their hopes and expectations for a new president.
An online survey collected additional thoughts from more than 1,000 respondents.
Several clear and consistent themes emerged in regard to what our community wanted in a new leader – 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 want to add that I think we got a two-fer because we got Wendy, as well. She is incredible and established in her own right. He is relentlessly positive, he understands the critical role of collaborative relationships in working toward a common goal and he loves the students he serves. His vision for our future is exciting and we have a lot to look forward to. I’m telling you that it’s a happy damn day.
— Denise Ilitch, Search Committee Co-Chair
It’s been a pleasure to serve with you as the co-chair of the search committee. I know our work turned out really well, and I’m excited for this day, as well. Our community also called for a leader who would continue to champion the university’s public mission though education and research, as well as its efforts in affordability and access; sustainability and carbon neutrality; sexual misconduct prevention; and diversity, equity, inclusion.
Those themes were incorporated into a job description for the president’s role, and with the help of the executive search firm of Isaacson, Miller, a comprehensive national search resulted in a large and diverse pool of exceptional candidates. I’d like to say thank you to John Isaacson and John Muckle from the search firm who helped us through this process.
Thank you again to our committee members and thank you for coming today. IT’s great to see you in person, those who were able to make it.
Thank you to the staff working behind the scenes for your support in getting this work done in an urgent but very purposeful manner. Who knew we could do it this fast? And, finally, thank you to every one of the students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, U-M retirees and others who shared their input with our committee during this process, including the listening sessions that Regent Ilitch referred to.
We listened. We heard you. And I’m confident that the finalist seated before us today is the right choice for the University of Michigan.
Dr. Ono has not only distinguished himself as a researcher and a university leader. He has shown an impressive ability to meet the pressing challenges of the day head on, from sustainability and climate change to mental health advocacy. I look forward to our work together. Thank you.
— Sarah Hubbard, Search Committee Co-Chair and Board Vice Chair
On behalf of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, and pursuant to Article VIII, Section 5 of the Michigan Constitution, and in accordance with the terms and conditions of a certain letter agreement that has been previously agreed upon, with its effectiveness being subject to approval and ratification at this meeting, I enthusiastically present the finalist, and hereby nominate Santa J. Ono as the 15th President of the University of Michigan. The letter agreement will be attached to the minutes of this meeting.
— Katherine E. White, Regent
I want to begin by sharing my deep gratitude to a number of extraordinary people:
President Mary Sue Coleman for leading this university (twice), most recently and currently, during an extraordinarily challenging time. We are enormously grateful to you.
My colleagues Regents Ilitch and Hubbard who co-chaired this successful search – doing so in a steady, reliable and diligent way.
The distinguished members of our Presidential Search Advisory Committee who provided candid, thoughtful, insightful and invaluable counsel.
And the thousands of students, faculty, staff and alums who shared with us their hopes and aspirations for their university and its leadership.
I want to welcome President-Elect Santa Ono, his wife Wendy Yip, and his family, to ours.
Today is a great (and rare) day at the University of Michigan. Since 1817, we have only had 14, now 15, presidents of the University of Michigan. Over almost the same time period, we have had 46 presidents of the United States.
Our outreach with the university community made it crystal clear that we needed a president who checked 10 boxes…
- Success as a public university president and an appreciation for the essential, indispensable public mission of our university. Double Check.
- A strident commitment to academic excellence; passionate about teaching, research and scholarship. Check.
- An eagerness to address the most pressing, complex and consequential issues of our time including climate change and racial justice. Check.
- Experience with a large, complex health system. Check.
- Experience with a multi-campus structure. Check.
- An appreciation for the arts to express the complexity of the human condition. Check.
- A real connection with students, their challenges, their wellness, their identities and their future. Check.
- A sober enthusiasm for big-time college athletics with all of its challenges and opportunities. Check.
- A ferocious defender of academic freedom and the free expression of diverse views. Check.
- Finally, and most importantly, a person of uncompromising honesty and integrity. Check.
Santa – You will lead our university at a critical time, when our work is more important and urgent than ever before.
No institution harnesses the scope and scale of excellence in the service of a public mission like the University of Michigan. Nobody.
— Mark J. Bernstein, Regent
I’d like to welcome Dr. Ono, his wife, Wendy, and their family to the University of Michigan.
In getting to know Santa over the past few months, you can effortlessly visualize him in the role as our president – on campus with students, with faculty, staff, and fans – even on twitter. You can truly see him moving the university forward into our third century.
As we move forward, it is important we provide an unmatched, safe learning and living environment for our students, faculty and staff; campuses where trust is earned and gained; where our state’s needs and concerns are addressed; our carbon neutrality goals are met and exceeded; our health system and research capabilities continue to thrive; and our Dearborn and Flint campuses are supported to the point they flourish.
At the University of Michigan we aspire to compete, contribute and win in the classroom, the world community, and on the field of play. It is not an easy task to find someone who can lead our university in so many different ways. I’m proud to say our presidential search committee found such a dynamic listener, communicator and leader in our 15th president. Welcome.
— Michael J. Behm, Regent
To follow Regent Bernstein is like being the backup quarterback to Tom Brady.
Santa Ono is an extraordinary pick to lead this university into the next decade. His expertise in governance, sustainability and research will help Michigan continue to rise as a Leader and Best in the world.
Of great importance is the fact that despite contentiousness on other issues and decisions, Santa was the first pick of all eight of the regents. This cohesiveness should serve the board well in the future as we work together with Santa to make Michigan the greatest university in the world. Thank you.
— Ron Weiser, Regent
Good Afternoon. I’m going to keep my remarks incredibly brief today, because I have to concur with most of the remarks by my colleagues. I want to touch briefly on why I believe Dr. Ono is truly the best candidate for the future of the University of Michigan.
A president must serve first and foremost with honesty and integrity. Santa has that in spades. But what truly makes him remarkable is his passion for his profession. It’s easy to tell you how great of an interview he was, or how well his references were, but it was through four video clips that are easily accessible online that convinced me that he was clearly the right person for this job.
The first are two TED talks he gave at UBC. His conversation about advancing women was an incredible and important speech. The second, on his own mental health struggles and the struggles of a University of Cincinnati student, brought tears to your eyes. You can’t help and watch while thinking, this man cares so deeply about his students.
The third, of course, is his interview with the CBC talking about the same subject. His modesty, his vulnerability, his clarity and his lack of ego in discussing some of the hardest moments of his life with a national radio audience. I was floored by that. In this day and age, when mental health at higher educational institutions is such an important issue, there’s no better person to lead than Santa Ono.
And finally, the fourth is one I did not believe existed. Now, I promised I would not breach the confidentiality of our search, and I won’t, but I have to make sure we discuss this. You, Dr. Ono, during one of our interviews, told me that there was a video of you crowd surfing in the student section at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. I could not believe this was real. I said to myself, how can this talented academic, this man of faith, this man of deep accomplishment in the arts and sciences, expect me to believe that he was crowd surfing at a football game? He couldn’t possibly be lying to me, could he? In a job interview, nonetheless!
Well, go look it up. It’s real. Now, I know you’ve seen Michigan Stadium, and it’s a tiny bit bigger than Nippert Stadium, so it might take a little longer to get to the top, but I’m hoping that soon, as we beat Ohio State again, you’ll learn what it means to crowd surf in the largest stadium in America.
But from athletics to academics, to health care, I know there’s no president that has the vision that you do. I know you’re going to join the ranks of the outstanding leaders at this school, and I look forward to voting for you as the 15th President of the University of Michigan.
— Jordan B. Acker, Regent