Santa J. Ono, University of Michigan President, Joins USJF Board

WASHINGTON, May 8, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Santa J. Ono, president of the University of Michigan, has joined the United States-Japan Foundation Board of Trustees.

Ono, an accomplished medical researcher and leader in higher education across North America, is a second-generation Japanese American who maintains strong ties to family in Japan. His grandfather, Akira Ono, was governor of Chiba Prefecture.

In addition to leading one of the largest, most-respected university systems in the U.S., Ono serves at a number of public service and advocacy organizations, including the Council on Competitiveness, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and the University Climate Change Coalition, which he chairs. He is an outspoken promoter of greater mental health treatment for young adults and at-risk youth. Ono has received an honorary doctorate from Chiba University and was also elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

“We are thrilled to be able to add somebody with Santa Ono’s demonstrated leadership, and deep ties to Japan, to our board,” said Lawrence K. Fish, USJF board chair. “We look forward to working with him, and tapping into his knowledge, his network, and his creativity, as we elevate our impact in both countries.”

“I am so proud, so honored to join the USJF Board of Trustees,” said Ono, “We have a fantastic opportunity to deepen our understanding and strengthen our engagement between the United States and Japan. So I look forward to us drawing closer together as friends, partners, and allies in order to address the great challenges of our time.” 

Before moving to Ann Arbor as Michigan’s 15th president in October 2022, Ono was president of the University of British Columbia, and the University of Cincinnati.

As a faculty member at Johns Hopkins, Harvard, University College London, and Emory, Ono drew widespread recognition for his groundbreaking research on ophthalmology and immunology, in particular for his work on macular degeneration and deteriorating eyesight. In addition to his presidential duties, Ono is professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences, and microbiology and immunology, at Michigan’s medical school. 

Ono’s parents — Takashi and Sachiko Ono — moved to the U.S. in 1959. His father, a mathematician, had been invited to Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study by then-director Robert Oppenheimer

Ono was born in Vancouver, where his father was teaching at the time. He currently serves as the chair of the U-M Health Board, the chair of Fulbright Canada, and is the honorary chairperson of the Japan American Society of Michigan and Southwestern Ontario.

In addition to Chair Fish, Ono joins on the USJF board: Vice Chair Tak Niinami, Wendy Cutler, Richard E. Dyck, Arfiya Eri, Colleen Hanabusa, James M. Kondo, Craig M. Mullaney, Richard J. Samuels, Keiko Tashiro, Donna Tanoue, and Takeshi Ueshima.

The United States-Japan Foundation was started in 1980 with a mission of improving relations between the two countries. It has since given out more than $100 million in grants and oversees the US-Japan Leadership Program with a network of 500 fellows from the two countries.


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