Los Angeles Mission College
13356 Eldridge Avenue • Sylmar, CA 91342 • 818.364.7600

NEWS RELEASE                                        

November 4, 2003

New milestone for Mission College's
first grad

By Eduardo Pardo

SYLMAR – Sergeant Dan Mastro has never been ordinary. And now that he’s reached a new stage in life, he’s 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 he’d previously taken classes at Valley College, Mastro accumulated enough units at Mission to become its first – and only – graduate in the college’s debut year, 1975.

He recalls feeling a little self-conscious, standing in full cap and gown at the San Fernando Mission, surrounded by the college’s 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 wasn’t 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 Mastro’s name was in the credits.

It’s no wonder the Los Angeles Times once called Mastro, "The Maestro of Good Deeds."

"That’s just the way I’ve been all my life," he said. "People would ask me, ‘Why do you do all this?’ I say, ‘Because that’s what we’re 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 hadn’t been able to wear the badge.

Mastro said that the students he met at Mission College also shaped his philosophy. Even though he’d 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.

It’s 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 hasn’t 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 isn’t thinking small. He’s 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 him.

"I’d like to work for the President of the United States, creating programs like those I’ve been involved with but on a national level," he said. "Programs that will benefit humanity."

He’s not kidding.