University of Michigan hires first Asian American president after surprise firing

Santa Ono
Associated Press/Al Behrman
In this Sept. 4, 2013, file photo, University of Cincinnati president Santa Ono poses on campus in Cincinnati. The university’s president has opened up about his past struggles with depression and suicide to address what he says is a stigma about mental illness. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports Ono spoke publicly about his struggles Saturday, May…

The University of Michigan appointed Santa Ono as its new university president Wednesday, making him the first Asian American to hold the university position. 

In a news release, the Ann Arbor, Mich-based school said its board of regents voted unanimously to approve Ono’s appointment in a special meeting held the same day.

Ono, born to Japanese immigrants, previously served as president of the University of Cincinnati and currently serves as president and vice chancellor at the University of British Columbia. He also served as senior vice provost and deputy to the provost at Emory University in the past. 

The 59-year-old biomedical researcher and former professor expressed his gratitude for the appointment in a statement. 

“The University of Michigan is recognized worldwide as being at the pinnacle of public higher education,” Ono said in the statement. “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. And I look forward to joining Michigan’s 600,000 alumni in cheering for the Wolverines,” he added. 

Ono’s hiring comes months after the board of regents removed former University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel from his position following allegations of an inappropriate relationship between Schlissel and a colleague during his tenure. 

The school’s investigation of the matter found that Schlissel, who had inked a five-year contract with the school in 2018, used his work email to communicate with the employee in an “inappropriate” manner that wasn’t suitable for the reputation of the university. 

In a statement, board of regents member Sarah Hubbard said she is confident Ono is the right choice for the university after the board’s extensive search for someone to fill the role.

“We listened. We heard you,” Hubbard said. “I’m confident that the finalist seated before us today is the right choice for the University of Michigan.”

Tags Ann Arbor Mark Schlissel Michigan Santa J. Ono University of Michigan University of Michigan University of Michigan
See all Hill.TV See all Video