Santa J. Ono, PhD
University of Cincinnati President Santa J. Ono, PhD, is a highly accomplished researcher in eye disease and a member of several national and international honorific societies as well as a sought-after public speaker, frequent opinion leader on higher education issues, and a recognized trailblazer in the use of social media. Serving as UC’s president since August 2012, he has gained a reputation as a chief executive who is accessible and responsive to the university’s wide range of constituents, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, business, civic, arts and government.
Under his leadership, UC has achieved its largest enrollment in history at 44,251, breaking enrollment records for three consecutive years. Dr. Ono also has launched Creating Our Third Century, a sharpening of the university’s vision as it prepares for its bicentennial in 2019. His tenure has also been marked by increasing accolades for UC, among them its selection as the Public University of the Year by the Washington Center.
Since his appointment as the university’s 28th president, Dr. Ono has also brought greater diversity to the President’s Cabinet, appointed the university’s first full-time Chief Diversity Officer, increased investments in diversity and inclusion, and spearheaded a restructuring of the UC Foundation.
Widely recognized as a leader in the use of social media among higher education executives, President Ono was named the 2014 Twitter Madness National Champion in a communications study based on the 64 universities and colleges competing in the 2014 NCAA basketball tournament. Inside Higher Education has named him the university president that is "in" for 2015. He also was named the “top social CEO” in Greater Cincinnati in a study in 2013. Education Dive said that Dr. Ono “sets the standard for the digital age” in its listing of six university presidents to watch in 2014. On Twitter, he coined the term “#Hottest-CollegeinAmerica” to reflect the momentum and spirit he finds on UC’s campus, and the phrase now appears on T-shirts and other items.
Dr. Ono is UC’s first Asian American president and one of only a handful of Asian American university or college presidents in the United States. In December 2013, he was named by the Japanese government as an honorary consul of Japan for the state of Ohio.
Dr. Ono served two months as UC’s interim president before his appointment as president in October 2012. Prior to that, he served as the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at UC, his role upon arriving at the university. As Provost, he led the development of an Academic Master Plan (AMP) aligned to the university’s strategic plan. Dr. Ono holds appointments as Professor of Pediatrics in UC’s College of Medicine and Professor of Biology in its McMicken College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Ono's principal research interests focus on the immune system and eye disease and he maintains an active research lab.
Prior to UC, Dr. Ono served at Emory University as Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives and Deputy to the Provost and then Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs. Earlier in his career, he also served in a variety of teaching, research and administrative positions at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and the Schepens Eye Research Institute, University College London (UCL) and Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.
Nationally, he serves on the Board of Directors of the American Council on Education (ACE) and chairs the Urban Serving Universities (USU) Health Steering Committee. Dr. Ono’s service in the community includes membership on the Cincinnati Business Committee and on the boards of Ohio’s Third Frontier, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cintrifuse, CincyTech, UC Health, Uptown Consortium, United Way, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and Japan-America Society of Cincinnati. He chairs the United Way Research Council and co-chairs the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Early Grade-Level Reading Campaign. In Ohio, he is a member of the board of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, chairs Gov. John Kasich’s biopharmaceutical task force and serves on the Chancellor’s Ohio Completion Task Force of the Ohio Board of Regents as well as the Executive Committee of the STRIVE partnership and served on the Board of Advisors for Strive for College.
He has served on the Medical Research Council's Medical Advisory Board and College of Experts and the immunological sciences (IMS) and hypersensitivity, autoimmune and immune-mediated (HAI) diseases study sections of the National Institutes of Health. He has consulted widely for companies such as GSK, Cambridge Antibody Technologies plc (now part of Astra Zeneca), Johnson & Johnson, Santen Inc. and Oxagen plc.
As a scholar and researcher, Dr. Ono has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Immunology, Journal of Biological Chemistry, Immunology and the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.
Among his many honors and awards are the American Diabetes Association Career Development Award, the Investigator Award from the National Arthritis Foundation, the Brit Katz Award (Emory University), the Roche Laboratories Award for Excellence in Research, and the Pharmacia International Award in Allergy Research. He was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012, inducted as a member of the National Academy of Inventors in 2014 and inducted into the Johns Hopkins University Society of Scholars in 2015.
Ono is also a recipient of an honorary degree from Chiba University in Japan, the American Jewish Committee National Human Relations Award, Pillar Award for Community Service – Nonprofit Executive Director of the Year Award (Medical Mutual/Smart Business), the People of Vision Award from Prevent Blindness Ohio, the Cincinnati Business Courier C-Suite CEO of the Year Award, and the Transformation Award from the Center for Respite Care.
Born in Vancouver, Canada, Dr. Ono earned his PhD at McGill University and his BA at the University of Chicago.