Here's everything you could possibly want to know about Santa Ono

Santa Jeremy Ono was named the 15th president of UBC this morning. Since we had a bit of a head start, we've spent hours gathering information on Ono, from his childhood in Vancouver, to his research at McGill, to his tenure at the University of Cincinnati (UC). Here's everything you need to know about UBC's newest president:

Early life

Ono's parents and older brother emigrated from post-WWII Japan after Robert Oppenheimer invited his father, accomplished mathematician Takashi Ono, to work for the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey on the recommendation of André Weil. After a while, though, his family had to leave the US to renew their green card, so his father took a position as a math professor at UBC in the early 1960s.

Ono was born on November 23, 1962 in Vancouver at St. Paul’s Hospital — he's currently 53 years old. He’s a Sagittarius, and shares his birthday with Miley Cyrus and Snooki.

His parents named him after Santaro, a Japanese folk samurai character. His brother’s name is Momoro, after Momotaro, another Japanese folk hero.

He loves his name: “People teased me about it as a boy, but I have no problem being called Santa. It is a very happy name. And it is a great icebreaker at parties,” he told UC Magazine.

He attended Towson high school in Baltimore, Maryland before earning his BA in Biological Science from the University of Chicago. He then went on to get his PhD in experimental medicine from McGill and become a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard.

Ono described himself as “out of control” in college, saying that he made decisions that nearly killed him. He credits his Christian friends at McGill with toning him down and “bringing [him] to Christ” — he was baptized in Montreal when he was 20. He's a devout Christian, but “I believe in all faiths,” he told UC Mag. “I don’t want to use my position in any way to be evangelical on a secular campus. I think that being involved in a Muslim group, a Jewish group, a Catholic group or a Protestant group on campus can play a very important role in the development and stability of students.”


Ono has two children, 18 year-old Juliana and 11 year-old Sarah, and a wife, Gwendolyn (Wendy) Yip whom he met at McGill. Yip's father was known as the "Canadian father of fibre optics," according to Ono, and was a professor at McGill. Yip's mother, Alice Chan-Yip, is a member of the Order of Canada and a pediatrician in the faculty of medicine at McGill. Ono's brother is a mathematician at Emory University in Atlanta.

Personal life

He is an accomplished cellist and singer, is a Eucharistic minister (someone licensed by the bishop to give communion) and has a penchant for bow ties.

  • Favourite quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
  • Favourite book: The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins
  • Favourite music: Steely Dan, Moody Blues, Bach, Rachmaninoff, Rihanna, Prince (According to his UBC profile).

His biggest fault, according to his wife, is that he does too much for people. “He is a sucker; if somebody needs him, he is there,” she told UC Mag. “And I understand that. We are both like that. It is a wonderful community, and there are so many needs. But there are always needs, and we all want to do great things.”

Literally everyone loves this guy.


Ono has conducted critical research on immune system gene regulation and eye inflammation. He’s held faculty positions at Johns Hopkins, Harvard, University College London (UCL) and Emory, including:

  • GlaxoSmithKline Chair of Biomedical Science at UCL
  • Head of the Department of Immunology at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
  • Honorary staff member at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives and Deputy to the Provost at Emory
  • Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Academic Affairs at Emory
  • Professor of Ophthalmology, Medicine, Pediatrics and Biology at Emory
  • Senior Vice President and Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of Cincinnati
  • President of UC from 2012-2016

He’s written about the STEM gender gap, America’s “innovation gap," leaders in the public eye using social media, and how measures of student success can't be "one-size-fits-all."

Presidential style

Ono has almost 73,000 Twitter followers and is a prolific tweeter, getting up at 4:30 a.m. every morning to reply to student and faculty tweets. He seems to have migrated accounts, though, and can now be found at @UBCPrez. He also has an Instagram of the same name.

He has performed with UC’s cheerleaders, and would occasionally dress up as Santa Claus and read UC students Christmas stories, according to UC Magazine. He was named Inside Higher Education’s “most notable university president” in 2015.

When UC students found out he was leaving, they freaked out.

It's easy to see why — in exchange for UC not raising undergraduate tuition, he didn’t accept a salary increase or bonus for two years. And once those two years were up, he kept going: his $200,000 bonus in 2015 went to “14 different organizations and scholarships, including a campus LGBTQ centre, a local science and technology-focused high school and a program for first-generation college students," according to the Vancouver Sun.

In 2013 he toured around the States promoting UC with a hashtag of his own creation — #HottestCollegeInAmerica — while answering anything and everything asked of him during fireside chats.

He describes himself as a "servant leader," which is a follower of a philosophy of leadership focused primarily on “the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong.”

“I see my job as working on behalf of the entire UBC community. I am working to serve you, and not vice-versa,” he said in his announcement speech this morning.

Ono is also known for raising awareness and breaking stigmas about mental health, using his own past challenges with depression and suicide.

Here are some other things he did:

Heroic. via Twitter

Plans for UBC

Here’s an introductory video that UBC produced:

►  Play video

It's only been a few hours since he was announced, but we know a few things about Ono's plans for his time at UBC:

  • He wants to teach during his time here.
  • He wants to engage with First Nations (it was the first thing he said in his announcement speech).
  • His philosophy of leading is to "lead from within the faculty" — so UBC's Faculty Association is probably breathing a sigh of relief.
  • He has explicitly promised to be accessible, and his time spent engaging students and faculty at UC seems reason enough to be optimistic about that.
  • He's also promised to be a "strong promoter of diversity, equity and inclusion.”
  • He wants to talk to former president Arvind Gupta. About what? "Whatever he wants to talk about!"
  • He said he doesn't know how much he's going to be making. What drove him, he says is the "quality of the people" and the chance to come full circle to his home town.
  • He'll be earning $470,000 per year, more than Gupta's $446,750.

Did we miss something? Anything you want us to find out more about? Let us know at and we'll update this article.