Asian American Studies

Tribute to Dr. Warren Furumoto

May 5, 2021

Furumoto pic

(Dr. Furumoto, in center)

Dr. Warren Furumoto, Professor emeritus of Biology, who was one of the pioneers of Asian American Studies at CSUN, passed away on January 5, 2021. The AAS department would like to remember him with the following tributes from former AAS chairs and an EOP director. 

There are many people responsible for the development of the Asian American Studies Department at CSUN.  Among the earliest and steadfast leaders were Jorge Garcia, Bob Suzuki, Gordon Nakagawa, George Uba, and Laura Uba.  Standing with them was Warren Furumoto whose steady energy and advocacy played a critical role in establishing and sustaining the department.  He was a bridge builder helping to link support of Asian American Studies with what was then known as the Chicano Studies department and Pan African Studies department.

 One of Warren’s greatest attributes was the way he could pressure the administration with the broadest smile and kindness so that they never knew what hit them. He effectively worked the backstages of university decision-making letting others take center stage.  He was relentless in his pursuit of social justice both on and off the campus.

Warren was interdisciplinary before that concept was even invented.  Coming from a strong science background, he articulated the need for the humanities, arts, and social sciences as also central to a well-educated person.  We all benefitted from his wisdom and optimism.  His legacy lives on in every student and faculty member who passes through CSUN.

 -       Kenyon S. Chan, 1st Chair of AAS (1990-1998)

Warren Furumoto will be remembered for his tireless work leading to enhanced access to and increased diversity at CSUN. His outreach efforts, especially to underserved schools and students, helped mightily in transforming the university and in connecting it to communities of color. In the long-ago mid-1990s he and former dean Jorge Garcia also met with area high school teachers to encourage them to broaden their curricula beyond the narrow confines of what these teachers previously had been taught in their own secondary school and college experiences. All of these efforts paid off in helping to make CSUN a viable target university through the whole of today’s San Fernando Valley.   

Many may not know that Warren also served on the original ad hoc committee to establish Asian American Studies at CSUN. He remained a steadfast supporter of the program and subsequently of the department. More than twenty years ago he volunteered to teach a course on Hawai’i Sovereignty for AAS, which I, as a new acting chair for the department, stupidly forgot to list in the printed schedule of classes, thus unintentionally limiting the number of enrollees. Warren taught the course anyway. Just a reminder, and a sign, of his dedication to students and to CSUN education.

 -       George Uba, 2nd (Interim) chair of AAS (1998-2000)

It is with a heavy heart that we share the news that Dr. Warren Furumoto passed away last week.  Warren, was a true activist who always stood up for social justice – no matter what the consequences were.  His passion for and dedication to educational equity opened the university’s doors to the most underserved communities. He was a key player in the fight for Ethnic Studies, EOP and students from disadvantaged backgrounds.  He was a faculty member and Chair of Biology.  He also served as the Associate Vice President for Academic Services in the early 90’s and EOP was one of the Programs under his leadership.   He was instrumental in the creation of Asian American Studies, Chicana/o Studies and many other Programs and Services on this campus which served students.  He championed equal access and student rights. He mentored many students, staff and faculty who developed into community leaders. He will be greatly missed. His legacy will continue as the programs which he helped to establish, continue to serve students and provide them with the opportunity toreach their academic and professional goals. Dr. Warren Furumoto was admired for his courage, his stamina and passion.   May he Rest in Peace.

 -       Shiva Parsa, EOP Director

I had the great honor to know Warren and to work with him for many years. He served on the department’s Personnel Committee before we had enough senior faculty to form a committee with department faculty. But  also served as a mentor and supporter during those early years when we were a pariah department. Those years of struggle  brought us together and our families visited and became close. We became partners in crime, the crime of working for students. His interests were broad and spanned many topics. We discussed history. When Samurai was a popular movie he came to my class and gave a fascinating lecture to counter the myths. We discussed indigenous cultures and life ways ranging from his native Hawaii to Mexico and the Americas. A fascinating man from whom I learned so much. I used to say, actually, I still say that the prime benefit of working at the university is that we can work and dialogue with people who know so much more than we do.I got to visit with him twice before the shut down while he was in the care facility. Took him out to lunch the second time and it was am absolute delight to interact with him again. Never to late to honor him for who he was and what he did.

 -          Dr. Jorge Garcia, Professor emeritus, Chicano/a Studies, Former COH Dean