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Santa Ono named University of Michigan's 15th president

Santa Ono
Courtesy of the University of Michigan
Santa Ono

The University of Michigan announced Wednesday its next president. Santa Ono was named by the Board of Regents in a special meeting and will become the university's 15th president. He will begin a five-year term on October 13, 2022.

Ono currently serves as the president and vice chancellor of the University of British Columbia, and also served as president of the University of Cincinnati from 2012-16.

"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," Ono said after a unanimous vote by the Regents. "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. It's an inspiration to institutions around the world. Michigan, as one of the world's great public universities, has an unrivaled research enterprise that every day results in innovation and discoveries that shape the future."

Santa Ono became the University of Michigan's 15th president on July 13, 2022.
Kate Wells
Michigan Radio
Santa Ono became the University of Michigan's 15th president on July 13, 2022.

He will take over the position from interim President Mary Sue Coleman, who resumed the position in January after the board fired former President Mark Schlissel for having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate employee. Schlissel is still a faculty member at the school, and Coleman will stay on for two months in order to help with the transition of the new president.

"I want to thank the members of the Presidential Search Committee for their thoughtful, diligent work that led to today’s appointment," Coleman said. "I know you devoted many, many hours to find such an exceptional candidate."

U of M's presidential search advisory committee held 30 presidential meetings and listening sessions and included students, faculty, and more. The search first began in February.

"I'm telling you it's a happy damn day," Regent Denise Ilitch said at the special meeting.

Ono was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, and holds dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship. He graduated with a BA in biological sciences from the University of Chicago and a PhD in experimental medicine from McGill University in Montreal.

Ono is active on social media, specifically on Twitter where he has more than 27,000 followers. He was named2015's most notable president by Inside Higher Ed while serving as president of the University of Cincinnati. In his profile, it was noted that he used social media to connect with students and tout the school's academics and athletics. In this 2013 YouTube video, you can see Ono crowdsurfing at a football game.

Santa Ono Crowd Surfing

"My job as president will be to make a great university even stronger, more engaged, and more inclusive," Ono said. "I want to amplify Michigan’s impact."

Editor's note: U of M holds Michigan Radio's license.

Jodi is Michigan Public's Director of Digital Audiences, leading and developing the station’s overall digital strategy.
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