University of Michigan names new president 

The appointment of Santa Ono as University of Michigan’s 15th president comes after a volatile time for the Ann Arbor school. 

Santa Ono stands in front of a University of Michigan sign

Santa Ono is introduced as the new president of the University of Michigan, Wednesday, July 13, 2022, in Ann Arbor. Ono becomes UM's 15th president and its first minority and Asian chief executive — the son of Japanese immigrants who came to the United States after World War II. The 59-year-old Ono has led the University of British Columbia for nearly six years after guiding the University of Cincinnati for four years.

Following a tumultuous time for the University of Michigan, the Ann Arbor-based school has named its new president.

The Board of Regents voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve the appointment of Santa Ono as the school’s 15th president.

Ono, 59, comes to U-M after serving as the president and vice chancellor at the University of British Columbia, where he has led the Canadian school since 2016.

Before that, he served as president of the University of Cincinnati and senior vice provost and deputy to the provost at Emory University in Georgia.

As the incoming president, he says he plans to listen to students.

“Student activism is often ahead of the faculty, staff and administrators and usually they’re on the mark,” Ono says.

Ono says he will pay attention to social movements and needs of his students.

“As an administrator, if you listen to students, you can really move the institution forward even more rapidly.”

The school has been reeling from wide-ranging sexual abuse allegations against former University Provost Martin Philbert, who was fired in 2020 after an investigation found he committed sexual misconduct during his long career, and Robert Anderson, a longtime campus doctor who was accused of sexual abuse by a number of football players and other athletes. He died in 2008. In January, the school announced a $490 million settlement with Anderson’s accusers.

Earlier this year former president Mark Schlissel was forced out following revelations of an improper relationship with a university employee. An investigation revealed that Schlissel used his university email account over the years to communicate with that subordinate “in a manner inconsistent with the dignity and reputation of the University.”

Ono says it’s a top priority for him to foster an open, safe and secure campus environment where people feel like they can come forward and report abuse.

“I have a lot of direct experience in the damage that … sexual assault and harassment have on young men and women,” Ono says. “It’s unacceptable and it will be part of my responsibility and I need to be held accountable to do everything I can to continue to move this institution forward.”

Ono, who will officially assume office on Oct. 13, takes the reins from Mary Sue Coleman, who has been serving as interim president after Schlissel was fired.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Photo credit: Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Trusted, accurate, up-to-date.

WDET strives to make our journalism accessible to everyone. As a public media institution, we maintain our journalistic integrity through independent support from readers like you. If you value WDET as your source of news, music and conversation, please make a gift today.

Donate today »


  • Russ McNamara
    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.