Michael N. Watanabe — President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Asian American Drug Abuse Program (AADAP), whose inspirational and caring leadership and commitment has changed countless lives and saved families locally, nationally and internationally—personifies the excellence and achievements that embody the objectives and ideals of the California State University and California State University, Northridge, and exemplifies the university’s aspirations for its diverse student body. In addition to his immensely successful career at AADAP, Mr. Watanabe has served with distinction in numerous community-based organizations, and is a highly-respected role model both here and abroad.

An alumnus of CSUN, Mr. Watanabe served two-and-one half years in the United States Army, with a tour in Vietnam before returning to the U.S. and completing his undergraduate education in 1973 at the university. During his time in the Master of Social Work (MSW) program at University of California, Los Angeles, where he had a scholarship through the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and graduated in 1975, he was introduced to the work of AADAP, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving Asians, Pacific Islanders and other underserved communities.

Joining AADAP in 1975, Mr. Watanabe has served for 42 years, and has been president and CEO for the past 34 years. Under Mr. Watanabe’s leadership, AADAP has grown in size from a mid-sized agency to a large, comprehensive service agency serving a significant portion of Los Angeles County through ten service sites. His success at AADAP has earned recognition and commendations from community leaders and public officials.

Mr. Watanabe’s record of service includes important leadership roles on a variety of community agencies over the years, including the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council and its Drug, Alcohol, and Tobacco Committee; the Los Angeles County Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Commission; the Asian and Pacific Islander Constituent Committee; the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs; and the National Asian Pacific Families Against Substance Abuse. He also has served as a member of the Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce and the United Way Western Regional Council of Executives.

In recognition of his remarkable professional achievement and his extensive leadership and service to the community, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, Northridge are proud to confer upon Michael N. Watanabe the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.​​​