Santa Jeremy Ono, who last month was named president of the University of Cincinnati, brings an infectious enthusiasm to the job.

"I really believe in the power of positive thinking," he says. That approach, which has been used by large multinational companies, can also work for a university community, he says.

"Santa's optimism is certainly contagious," says Richard A. Miller, chair of the Faculty Senate. "The general sense I get from the faculty is that people are quite happy to have him as president."

Mr. Ono arrived at Cincinnati in 2010 as senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. He had been senior vice provost for undergraduate academic affairs at Emory University and a professor of ophthalmology in the medical school there.

At Cincinnati he led the development of an academic master plan aligned to the 42,000-student institution's seven-year strategic plan. This past August he agreed to become interim president following the sudden resignation of Gregory H. Williams. "I'm not a new person here at all," says Mr. Ono. "Everybody knows who I am. I'm quite an extroverted, gregarious guy."

The trustees chose Mr. Ono unanimously, citing his accessibility to all university constituencies. "My job is to make sure that everyone is on the same wavelength," Mr. Ono says.