September 2018


Welcome to the first issue of Letter to the Board, a regular communication from myself to members of the UBC Board of Governors.

As I mentioned in my remarks at the June board meeting, Board members have asked for more communication from the University. To serve this need, I have started this regular e-newsletter, which will be sent to members of the Board of Governors once a month. I welcome your thoughts on its content and format.


It was been a busy summer at UBC. Not only were we preparing for the start of the 2018-19 academic year in September, but the schedule included appointments, government announcements visits, and meetings both on and off campus, and much more. You’ll find more detailed information in my Looking Forward to 2018-19 post on my website, but here are some highlights:


APRU Presidential Forum

In late June I was honoured to participate in the annual presidents’ meeting of theAssociation of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU). UBC is the only Canadian member, and our ties with our colleagues in Asia and the Pacific are important to the university.

I also travelled to Japan in August to visit Keio University and the University of Tokyo, and to meet with UBC alumni, students and friends in Japan.

Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute

On July 4, we officially opened the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute, with Stewart and Marilyn Blusson in attendance. The Blussons’ $11 million gift to the institute positions UBC to push the boundaries of research vital to the future of scientific advancement and the university is pleased to name the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute in their honour.

Vice-Presidential Appointments

I’m pleased to announce that Heather McCaw has been appointed Vice-President Development and Alumni Engagement and Peter Smailes has been appointed Vice-President Finance and Operations. Heather, who assumes her role this fall, brings more than 25 years of experience in university fundraising and strategic business partnerships to the role. Peter served as Interim Vice-President since January before formally taking on the position in July. In addition, Andrew Parr has been named interim Vice-President, Students.

Vice-Presidential Searches

As you know, we are undertaking searches for the positions of Vice-President Students and Vice-President External Relations. Search committees for both positions have been struck and have begun their tasks.

President’s Roundtable on Climate Action

On July 18, I was pleased to preside at the UBC President’s Community Roundtable: Building Resilient Partnerships for Climate Action at the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre.  The roundtable was the second in a series of Community Roundtables I am hosting on pressing issues facing the community and UBC’s role in addressing those issues.

Provincial Ministers

I had the pleasure of meeting with four provincial ministers in the past few months. On July 5, I discussed the University Endowment Lands with municipal affairs minister Selina Robinson. On July 25, I met with advanced education minister Melanie Mark in Kelowna. On July 31, I met with Bruce Ralston, the minister of jobs, trades and technology. On August 2, Justice Minister (and Vancouver Quadra MLA) David Eby toured the new Indian School History and Dialogue Centre, the latest of several provincial ministers (including Premier John Horgan) and MLAs to tour the Centre.


On September 4, we welcomed thousands of new first-year students to the UBC Okanagan and Vancouver campuses at the annual Create and Imagine events. This year’s class of first-year students is the largest ever, with close to 10,000 new students.


Homecoming took place on September 22 on the Vancouver campus, with thousands of alumni, students and friends of the university coming to campus for the football game between the Thunderbirds and the Calgary Dinos and other events. It was a close and exciting game, with UBC losing 32-28 in the final minute. UBC Okanagan celebrates its first ever Homecoming next month, October 19-20.


September 26: The third talk in the UBC Connects speaking series features physicist Michio Kaku. It takes place at the Chan Centre. If you don’t already have tickets, you can join thewait list.  And save the date for the next talk in the series, featuring  author Isabelle Allende, which takes place November 20.

September 26-28: senior communication leaders from the world’s leading universities will gather at UBC for the annual meeting of the World 100 Reputation Network. The conference theme will be “Differentiation and the World-Class University” and I have been invited to give a keynote address on my own communication style and UBC’s brand identity.

September 29-30: the annual UBC Day of the Longboat race takes place on the shores of Jericho Beach with over 3,000 people paddling in the largest voyageur canoe race in the world.

October 5: I will be representing UBC at the inauguration of Lawrence Bacow as the 29th president of Harvard University.

October 15: I hope you can join me for the President’s Concert Series, featuring pianist Tony Yike Yang at the Old Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. Just 19 years old, Tony is emerging as one of the foremost pianists of the younger generation. You can learn more at

Prof. Santa J. Ono

President and Vice-Chancellor.