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University of Michigan hires Santa Ono to be the next president

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The University of Michigan on Wednesday named Santa Ono, president and vice chancellor of the University of British Columbia, to lead the university after its former president was fired in disgrace and it resolved a sexual assault scandal with a nearly half-a billion-dollar settlement .

Ono 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.

Ono takes over from Mary Sue Coleman, who is the Ann Arbor school’s interim president. His appointment was approved Wednesday in a unanimous vote by the eight-member board of regents. He is the university’s 15th president and was met with a standing ovation by the regents and those in attendance.

Regent Denise Ilitch said during the meeting it was “a happy damn day.”

Regent Mark Bernstein said it was important to the regents that the new appointment appreciates the school’s sporting prowess.

“Athletics is the front porch of our university. Any successful Michigan president needs to appreciate this fact,” Bernstein told The Associated Press. “Santa Ono has a sober enthusiasm for big-time athletics. He fully understands the challenges and opportunities of college athletics.”

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Former President Mark Schlissel was removed earlier this year after emails were discovered detailing an alleged inappropriate sexual relationship between him and a subordinate.

The board of regents then appointed Coleman, whom Schlissel succeeded as president in 2014.

The university has been rocked by allegations that surfaced in 2020 by hundreds of men who said they were sexually assaulted by the late Robert Anderson, a campus doctor who spent nearly 40 years at Michigan. He died in 2008. In January, the school announced a $490 million settlement with Anderson’s accusers.

Santa Ono is introduced as the new president of the University of Michigan.

Santa Ono is introduced as the new president of the University of Michigan.
(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Separately, Michigan reached an agreement to settle a lawsuit brought by students who sought to force changes in how the school protects the campus from sexual misconduct.

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And the university paid $9.25 million to eight women who reported emotional or sexual abuse by Martin Philbert, who over 25 years rose from professor to provost, Michigan’s senior academic official. He was removed in 2020.

Ono is a prolific tweeter and an enthusiastic cheerleader for his schools.

At Cincinnati, he tossed out T-shirts at football games and surprised freshmen by helping them move into their dorms. And he used Twitter to provide updates on everything from how the school fared in a ranking of US colleges to the score of a rugby match.

Ono, who was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, holds a biology degree from the University of Chicago and a doctorate in experimental medicine from McGill University. His research focus is the immune system, eye inflammation and age-related macular degeneration. Ono was a professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

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Ono is an accomplished cellist. He is married to Wendy Yip, who trained as an immunologist at McGill and as a lawyer at Boston University. They have two daughters.

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