University of Michigan to name Santa J. Ono as next president, sources say

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — The University of Michigan will announce Wednesday as its next president a biomedical researcher with a global resume that includes faculty positions at four universities and two tenures as a university president.

Santa J. Ono, president and vice chancellor of the University of British Columbia, is expected to be approved by the Board of Regents during a special meeting Wednesday afternoon as UM's 15th president, two sources close to the university confirmed to The Detroit News.  

Santa J. Ono

Ono, 59, also has a history of supporting the environment, diversity, mental health and athletics.

Since 2016, Ono has led UBC, a public university in western Canada attended by 70,000 student with campuses in Vancouver and Kelowna, British Columbia.

He previously served as president of the University of Cincinnati and senior vice provost and deputy to the provost at Emory University in Atlanta. He also was a professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and served on the faculties of Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Emory and University College London universities.

Ono will be UM's first Asian leader when he begins his post. He comes from a modest beginning as the son of a mathematician who came to the United States from post-World War II Japan. 

Most recently, he has devoted a decade at the helm of two universities — UBC since 2016 and the University of Cincinnati from 2012-16.

"We got the one that everyone is going to be very, very excited about," said Paul Brown, incoming chair of the UM Board of Regents, who kept the chosen candidate close to his vest Monday.

If approved, Ono will succeed UM interim President Mary Sue Coleman, who took over in January after the board fired former President Mark Schlissel following what the board said was an undisclosed, inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.

More:40 days that sealed Mark Schlissel's fate: How University of Michigan fired its president

More: Read former UM president Mark Schlissel's apology to the Board of Regents

UM officials have said they would announce by summer the university's 15th president since launching a search in February. UM hired Boston-based executive search firm Isaacson Miller, which conducts more than 350 senior-level executive searches annually and has completed more than 7,300 searches during the past 38 years.

The university also assembled a 17-member search committee, which included the eight regents and was co-chaired by Regents Sarah Hubbard, a Republican, and Denise Ilitch, a Democrat.

The meeting to elect Ono will be at 1 p.m. at University Hall, second floor of the Ruthven Building, 1109 Geddes Road, in Ann Arbor.

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com