milestone for Mission College's
Dan Mastro has never been ordinary. And now that hes reached a new
stage in life, hes not about to change.
Mastro began his adult
life in a fanfare of attention when he was the sole graduate of a brand
new community college in San Fernando Mission College. Because
hed previously taken classes at Valley College, Mastro accumulated
enough units at Mission to become its first and only graduate
in the colleges debut year, 1975.
He recalls feeling
a little self-conscious, standing in full cap and gown at the San Fernando
Mission, surrounded by the colleges faculty and staff, guests, and
reporters who came to interview the "class of one."
"It was strange,
but it was also pretty cool," he said. "I received a lot of
attention. I got a letter from the governor, from a senator and from Congress
people. And the newspaper did an article."
For Mastro, that first exposure to public attention wasnt the last.
During a 26-year career with the Los Angeles Police Department as a patrol
officer, sergeant and assistant watch commander, Mastro made headlines
many times for spearheading innovative outreach projects in the community.
Whether it was Adopt-A-Cop, a food or toy drive for the homeless, or the
"We Care Bears" program giving teddy bears to children traumatized
by crime chances are, Mastro was behind the idea. If you read about
"Tip a Cop Day" (when off-duty officers served restaurant meals
and then donated their tips to the Special Olympics), saw those anti-gang
billboards featuring positive role models, or caught a Neighborhood Watch
program in Spanish on cable television most likely Mastros
name was in the credits.
Its no wonder the Los Angeles Times once called Mastro, "The
Maestro of Good Deeds."
"Thats just the way Ive been all my life," he said.
"People would ask me, Why do you do all this? I say,
Because thats what were supposed to do.
For his efforts, Mastro now retired received a slew of civic
commendations over the years.
Mastro credits his experiences at Mission College with helping to shape
the "people" philosophy he took into the field. Although his
degree was in Administration of Justice, a favorite subject was sociology
a discipline in which he earned more than 30 units. Born to be
a cop, Mastro believes his field would have been sociology if he hadnt
been able to wear the badge.
Mastro said that the
students he met at Mission College also shaped his philosophy. Even though
hed already been to Vietnam by the time he enrolled at Mission,
Mastro acknowledges he grew up somewhat sheltered in a Pacoima neighborhood
he describes as "very pro police, very pro military."
"Suddenly, I was in classes with a lot of minorities," he recalled.
"When I told them I wanted to become a Los Angeles police officer,
I was not well received. They began telling me stories about friends
who had been beaten by the police or stopped for no reason."
But when Mastro pressed
his classmates for specifics, he often discovered that the stories were
hearsay or at least partly unsupported. For his part, Mastro would urge
his friends not to spread stories that could contribute to preconceived
notions such as, "All cops are bad."
It was exchanges like these that convinced Mastro of the value of communication,
of talking to people, of persuasion and reasoned discussion.
Its a philosophy that he practiced for 26 years on the streets of
Los Angeles and which he espouses in a new book, "From the Heart:
Lessons Learned from Life."
One year into retirement, Mastro hasnt slowed down a bit. The parent
of an adult daughter and stepson, Mastro is raising a nine-year-old stepson
while working in private security in the entertainment and media industries.
True to fashion, Mastro isnt thinking small. Hes talking to
some of the entertainment folks he protects about bringing his book to
the screen. And, at age 51, he still thinks he has another career before
"Id like to work for the President of the United States, creating
programs like those Ive been involved with but on a national level,"
he said. "Programs that will benefit humanity."
Hes not kidding.