Remembering Zell, celebrating Dearborn

May 18, 2023

Sam Zell speaks at Ross. He is bald and caucasian with a white beard, wearing a gray t-shirt and blue jacket.

The Zell Lurie Institute at Michigan Ross immerses students in entrepreneurial environments where they create, lead, and shape innovative ventures. (Image: Roger Hart, Michigan Photography.)

I’d like to begin by joining with the family and friends of Sam Zell in mourning his passing.

Sam was a self-made entrepreneur who created what he described as a “meritocracy with a moral compass”; a man of contagious wit and a deep sense of civic responsibility.

He was an alumnus and one of our most generous philanthropists, supporting many different areas of the University, including the Samuel Zell and Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.

Sam will be deeply missed. But his brilliance, generosity, and loyalty will continue to shine brightly across the University of Michigan.

Dearborn update

I’d like to thank UM-Dearborn Chancellor Grasso and his team for being such fantastic hosts at our recent Board of Regents meeting in Dearborn.

I’m so grateful the Board extended Chancellor Grasso’s term to another five years this past February.

He’s earned the opportunity: Since 2018, graduation rates on the Dearborn campus have increased, research funding has grown exponentially, and we are seeing record-breaking numbers of international students.

Today U-M Dearborn has more than 8,000 students from 78 birth countries attending its four colleges, and I’m incredibly optimistic about our future possibilities.

Action-packed spring

In addition to our recent commencement – and I’d like to acknowledge all of you who joined us – we’ve had a number of other notable developments since we met in March.

Last week, we had a fantastic Pan Asia Alumni Reunion in Singapore. U-M is a proudly international university.

It’s an essential part of our heritage – our identity and our DNA – and I’m convinced that with our many enthusiastic alumni, we have an outstanding opportunity to strengthen our profile and increase our impact in Asia.

Our strategic visioning process is well underway, and we are continuing to gather input from our campus and community, including two town halls at the end of this month.

We also formally launched our Campus Plan 2050 project, which will ensure that our physical campus develops to provide the living, learning, and working environments necessary to fulfill our strategic vision.

Innovation and leadership

Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II talks to staff at University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. Photo: Marcin Szczepanski/Michigan Engineering

Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II talks to staff at University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute about the new electric vehicle center. (Image: Marcin Szczepanski/Michigan Engineering.)

A few weeks ago, we finalized an agreement with the State of Michigan to provide $130 million in funding for an Electric Vehicle Center. The Center will be focused on the future of electric vehicle technology and workforce development, and will be critical to solidifying our state – and our nation – as a leader in the industry.

Our Institute for Clinical and Health Research received a seven year, $71 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to improve the process of translational health so we move more treatments to more patients more quickly.

Seven members of our faculty were named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for their leadership and excellence across academia, the arts, industry, research, and public policy, and two others were elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest distinctions for a scientist or engineer in the United States.

The members of our faculty and staff lead with excellence, and they truly make us who we are as the leaders and best.

And I’ve just returned from my first experience at the Mackinac Policy Conference. More on that next time.


Santa J. Ono, PhD

(Culled from remarks prepared for delivery to the U-M Board of Regents on May 18, 2023.)


  1. Zim Olson - LSA 72-73 Zim (fka Kim) Matthew Olson

    Good memories of Ann Arbor and LSA. Merit is important as Zell appears to have indicated. Can take many real verifiable forms, important as well. LSA of no verifiable merit is NO good.

    Zim Olson and Zim Mathematics
    Creative Math and Art.
    Math Foundations + Logic.
    Systems Interpretation.
    www . zimmathematics . com


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