Investing in the people of Michigan

February 16, 2023

I’d like to begin by offering our most profound sympathies to the loved ones of those who were wounded and lost on Monday night at Michigan State University. We’ve lowered the flags across our campuses to half-staff, and in coordination with the vigil on the Diag Feb. 15, we lit the Burton Tower in green and white.

I attended the vigil, and it was clear that our community has such a deep sense of compassion, as well as a terrible feeling of anguish, for our friends and colleagues and family members in East Lansing. So we must continue to do all we can to support one another at U-M, and our colleagues and friends at MSU, in this hour of grief and need.

The safety and wellness of our community is, and will always remain, my highest priority as president.

Inauguration March 7

We’ve had an extremely ambitious start to the year, and it’s hard to believe the March 7 inauguration is nearly upon us.

I’d like to give you a sense of the scope of our achievements to date:

  • We accepted an invitation to join the U+7 Alliance of World Universities, the fifth U.S. institution to join the alliance, which is dedicated to working together to address the most pressing global issues of our time.
  • The U-M Debate Program, one of the oldest in the United States, received a donation of $1 million, the largest gift in its history.
  • And we announced a commitment of $20 million to accelerate transformative discovery and impact through the arts among our students, staff, and faculty, and across our region and community.

It’s also important that we acknowledge the signal increase in funding for higher education that Governor Whitmer recently proposed. More than an investment in the universities of Michigan, her proposal represents an investment in the people of Michigan, an investment made in the high confidence that our students will become engaged citizens, successful workers, and outstanding leaders.

At our gathering of regents in January, we had a number of thoughtful and truly insightful conversations about our strategic visioning process and the campus planning update that will move forward alongside the visioning works.

Since then, we’ve taken several significant steps. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve charged Laurie McCauley, our provost and vice president for executive affairs, Geoff Chatas, our executive vice president and chief financial officer, and Marschall Runge, our executive vice president for medical affairs with leading this visioning effort. Geoff’s team will also lead the campus planning effort.

At our meeting in December, we discussed our plan to lay the groundwork for the first housing we’ve built specifically for first-year students since 1963. I’m pleased with our progress, and I look forward to working together to address this palpable student need.

Historic naming gift

Dean Elizabeth Moje in Education classroom at U-M.

Dean Elizabeth Moje works with students at the Marsal Family School of Education. (Image courtesy of the School of Education.)

Each of us was a student at one point.

All of us are here together thanks to an educator – someone who saw something special in us, who taught us, who opened our eyes, and who lifted our lives.

An education is the greatest gift we can give.

So I’m so pleased to share with all of you that, thanks to the incredible efforts of Dean Elizabeth Moje, we have received a historic naming gift for our School of Education. The Marsal family has made a commitment of $50 million – with their total giving to the school exceeding $55 million.

Dean Moje will lead the implementation of this gift, which will:

  • Buttress initiatives designed to prepare and support a diverse population of teachers
  • Build robust partnerships with schools and communities
  • Conduct research in collaboration with education practitioner

Even as we were the first American university to establish a chair exclusively devoted to education, the Marsal School of Education will ensure we remain a leader in building our future through education.

I’m so excited about our next steps.

We’ve made an accomplished start … and we have an ambitious year ahead.


President Santa J. Ono

(Culled from remarks prepared for delivery to the U-M Board of Regents on Feb. 16, 2023. Lead image courtesy of Michigan Ross.)


  1. Joseph Hirschhorn - 1951

    Don’t know if you remember me from the University of Cincinnati where I was the head of O:LLI.
    I certainly remember you and you support.
    Congratulations on your new position and good luck as you proceed with the U of M.


  2. Jeff Englander - 1974

    Welcome to the U of M family and thank you for your leadership already before your formal inaugural.
    I hope that it will be available to those of us who are miles away from Hill Auditorium. I am eager to hear about your vision for the university community.


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