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Guest Column: The Tradition of the Leaders and Best

Santa J. Ono, the 15th president of the University of Michigan, shares his gratitude to alumni.
By Santa J. Ono

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Read time: 2 minutes
Ono visits the Alumni Center's Pride Wall and takes pictures on his phone.
Ono visited the Alumni Center and enjoyed the Pride Wall after meeting with students, faculty, and staff on campus on Oct. 21. Photo by Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography

The Leaders and Best. Thatʼs the tradition of which Iʼm so honored to be a part as the 15th president of the University of Michigan.

I recently had the opportunity to visit our newly reopened Alumni Center on campus and was proud to see so many U-M luminaries who have shaped our state, impacted our nation, and transformed our world.

They are outstanding individuals like Katie Bouman, ’11, who was part of the Event Horizon Telescope team that revealed the first direct image of a supermassive black hole.

Cincinnati Reds slugger Barry Larkin completed his degree in 2010, and was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.

Jeffery Seller graduated in 1986 and has gone on to become a Tony Award-winning producer of Broadway productions such as “Rent” and“Hamilton.”

Alexa Canady, ’71, MD’75, became the first female and first African American neurosurgeon in the U.S.

Nobel Prize winner Samuel C.C. Ting is a Michigan alum. So, too, is Cecilia Muñoz, who served for five years as director of the White House Policy Council under President Obama.

They are joined by Madonna, Larry Page, and Tom Brady.

Yet we may forget that for all their incredible achievements, each alum also faced challenges — days when the Muses remained mute, or the practice was just a grind, or the experiment simply didn’t work … for the umpteenth time. Yet, they overcame. They refused to be limited by their backgrounds or lessened by others’ perceptions, and they charted, and are charting, their own paths.

So we celebrate our alumni, not only for their accomplishments, but for their commitment and recommitment to being, and again becoming, exemplary leaders.

That’s the tradition of new Alumni Association President and CEO Corie Pauling, who is following the outstanding service of Steve Grafton. I look forward to working with her as she moves the organization in new directions.

Leadership is the tradition of each of you, our more than 650,000 U-M graduates who are making a difference. The excellence of Michigan — its faculty, students, staff, and alumni like you — was the single greatest factor in attracting me to this great university.

And it’s the commitment that I will renew each day as president of the University of Michigan. That’s my promise, that’s my pledge to all of you.

Thank you again for the opportunity to join you in service as the Leaders and Best.


Santa J. Ono is the president of the University of Michigan.

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