Breaking ground in Detroit

December 7, 2023

We’ve had a fantastic year together.

To be sure we have had our challenges. But we have also had a year of sustained growth and inspired achievement.

To offer just one example, at our meeting in October, the Board of Regents approved construction of the University of Michigan Center for Innovation in Detroit, and I remain so grateful for their approval and their confidence in our team.

This month, we will break ground on this new $250M facility, which when complete will be a world-class research, education, and entrepreneurship center, one that will empower the next generation of Detroiters to dream bigger dreams … and make their dreams into realities.

We also recently hired Scott Shireman as UMCI’s inaugural director. He’s an experienced higher education administrator with deep expertise in global and online education. I’m so delighted to welcome him to our team, and I look forward with eager expectation to see what he will achieve.

A safer, more inclusive world

I’m also pleased to announce that as so many members of our community continue to grapple with the violence in the Middle East, we are announcing a new institute to combat antisemitism and advance religious inclusion.

Our new University of Michigan Raoul Wallenberg Institute will be housed in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and be further developed with investments across the University. Swedish native Wallenberg was a U-M alum, earning his architecture degree in 1935. Less than 10 years later, he was sent from neutral Sweden on a diplomatic mission to save the lives of the last surviving Jews in Budapest. It is estimated he saved as many as 100,000 Jews from the Holocaust before disappearing in January 1945. His fate remains unknown.

We look forward to sharing more details about the U-M Wallenberg Institute in the days to come, even as we continue our university-wide efforts to advance religious inclusion, education, research, and scholarship.

Today, we are bringing together leading U-M expertise and diverse perspectives toward a safer and more inclusive world, and even more, a brighter world of peace.

To start the new year, we’ll be cheering on our Wolverines in their quest for a National Championship, and I’d like to congratulate them for winning a third consecutive Big Ten Championship.


I’m also proud that U-M continues to be a leader among higher education institutions for students studying abroad. In 2021-22, the most recent academic year with complete data, we had more than 2,000 students studying abroad, which placed us in the top 10 nationally. We are a proudly international school, and it is a vital part of our identity.

Finally, I would like to welcome another individual – and possibly a family – that after an extended absence, has found a new home in our community.

Last month, staff members at our Matthaei Botanical Gardens discovered that beavers were building a dam across Fleming Creek. This is the first time beavers have been in the area since the gardens were established more than a century ago, and we’re happy to welcome them.

I’d like to wish all of you a safe and happy holiday season.


Santa J. Ono, PhD

(Culled from remarks prepared for delivery to the U-M community on Dec. 7, 2023.)


  1. Mike Jefferson - 1980

    This is the perfect opportunity for Dr. Ono to stand up and declare conclusively that he rejects genocidal activities on campus targeting Jews and will act to dismiss, convict, and deport those troglodytes who are leading and participating in such practices.


    • Hunter Van Valkenburgh - 1994

      What “genocidal activities”? If you are referring to students protesting the University’s investments in Israel as that country continues to kill 100 Palestinian children per day, then your perception is incredibly distorted. I haven’t heard of any protesters calling for the death of Jews or lauding the crimes of Hamas. They are calling for all of the killing to stop. I don’t presume to know President Ono’s position on the issue, as he has been afraid to speak with the non-violent protesters, preferring to sneak out the back door. I hope he engages more with the non-wealthy public as his term progresses.


  2. Lawrence Serlin - 1981 (Law)

    Dr. Ono, I applaud you for not only taking a public stand against the horrific rise in antisemitism but in actually taking concrete action to counter it. I have been disheartened seeing the weak and mealy mouthed responses to acts of hate speech and intimidation of Jewish students on so-called elite universities. I am grateful that my Alma Mater is led by someone with a backbone and a moral compass, who can discern right from wrong and who is not afraid to do the right thing. Thank you for your leadership and character which serve as an example to students and faculty as well as the many proud alumni of this truly great university. Go Blue!


  3. Chris Campbell - Rackham, '72; Law, '75

    I was happy to read the news about the beavers, and Pres. Ono’s decision to include that note. We live in a world of big and small events. Sometimes the small ones are worthy of our attention and our contemplation. Like beavers, which were what first drew Europeans to this region, with vast consequences.


  4. Irina Livezeanu - 1986

    I am touched to find out that Raoul Wallenberg was a U of M alumnus and that he will be honored by an institute named for him. Good idea!


    • Chris Campbell - Rackham, '72; Law, '75

      Raoul Wallenberg was indeed heroic and an example of principled behavior that we need today. Exemplary lives provide guidance to the rest of us.


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