SAN LUIS OBISPO – Cuesta College proudly recognizes its alums’ outstanding achievements and contributions through the esteemed Honored Alumni Awards. These prestigious awards were established in 1989 to recognize former students who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments and a dedication to community service and their alma mater. This year, Cuesta College is delighted to honor four outstanding individuals at the Cuesta College Foundation 50th Anniversary Celebration, held on May 4 at Oyster Ridge in Santa Margarita.

“Cuesta College extends our warmest congratulations to our Honored Alumni for their extraordinary accomplishments, commitment to excellence, and inspiring our entire campus community,” said Cuesta College Superintendent/President Dr. Jill Stearns.

The 2023 Honored Alumni and their bios are as follows:

Evan Norton, Psy.D. ’12 

Dr. Evan Norton is a licensed clinical forensic psychologist practicing in Texas. He is the Senior Director of Integrated Treatment and Intervention for the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. He oversees mental health and case management services for over 700 youth in the state justice system. Dr. Norton is recognized as an expert in violent offending, risk assessment, and trauma-informed treatment programming. He has presented nationally and internationally on topics such as psychopathy and psychometrics. Dr. Norton graduated from Cuesta College in 2012 as a decorated swimmer and water polo player. He received his bachelor’s degree from Concordia University, Irvine, and completed a master’s and doctoral degree in Clinical-Forensic Psychology at Alliant International University, San Diego. 

Mark Adam Watkins ’91 

Mark Adam Watkins started in the Cuesta College music program in 1989, performing as a pianist with the Vocal and Instrumental Jazz ensemble. He earned a Piano Performance degree from Cal State University Long Beach and was selected as one of five international composers to study at the Henry Mancini Institute’s inaugural year. Mark’s career as a composer has spanned many genres, including film, television, and musical theatre. He has worked with renowned pop singers, such as

Beyoncé, Lou Rawls, Al Jarreau, Debby Harry, Lisa Loeb, Brian Setzer, Jack Sheldon, Bernadette Peters, Rachel York, and chamber groups like the Quadre horn quartet in San Francisco. Mark has also composed for the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach for 11 seasons. He credits his mentors at Cuesta College for inspiring him to pursue a music career. 

Caren Ray Russom ’88 

Caren Ray Russom is a Central Coast resident and a dedicated public servant. She graduated from Arroyo Grande High School and continued her education at Cuesta College, where she excelled in water polo and earned All-American honors for swimming. Caren later obtained a bachelor’s degree in History from UCLA and a master’s in Educational Leadership and Administration from Cal Poly. She has over 20 years of experience in education and has been active in public service since 2005, serving as a Planning Commissioner for Arroyo Grande, City Council member, County Supervisor, and Mayor. She credits Cuesta College for providing her with the tools and opportunities necessary for her professional success and service in the public eye. 

Karl Wittstrom ’75 

Karl Wittstrom is the co-owner and operations manager of Margarita Vineyard and Ancient Peaks Winery and the proprietor of a 37-acre vineyard in Paso Robles. He played on the Men’s Basketball team while attending Cuesta College from 1970-1975. His twin daughters Amanda and Heidi also played basketball at Cuesta and are proud alums. With his extensive experience and leadership in the agricultural industry, Karl inspires current and future Cuesta College students. He is actively involved in various agricultural organizations, including serving as a former director of the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles, a California Cattlemen’s Association member, and a member of the California Farm Bureau.

For more information about the Honored Alumni Awards, please get in touch with the Cuesta College Foundation at (805) 546-3279 or email

Photo from left to right: Caren Ray Russom ’88, Dr. Evan Norton ’12, Karl Wittstrom ’75, Mark Adam Watkins ’91