Kevin Perez/Skyline College
It’s a long way from Tanzania to San Francisco — to be more specific, nearly 10,000 miles. The trip by plane from San Francisco International Airport to East Africa’s second largest country is a brutal day-long journey.
Although the traveling itself may be a forgettable experience for some, it wasn’t close to a distraction for one particular Tanzanian man in his late 20s as he went on the trip in the late 1960s. Johannes Masare needed a different challenge from his occupation as a political science instructor at Dar-es-Salaam University, a local college a few blocks from the Indian Ocean in Tanzania. After taking his seat and buckling up on the airplane to California, the experience that awaited him was unimaginable.
On August 28, Skyline College officially announced Dr. Masare’s retirement after roughly five decades — 35 years at Skyline — educating young students about the political science landscape. 2020 marks his 80th birthday.
“He approached his work with a unique understanding of how education can empower and transform and the important role of teachers in this process,” Skyline Shines said in their weekly newsletter.
Born in 1940 in Tanzania, Masare was one of seven children that grew up in a cozy environment that heavily emphasized compassion and love.
“My sisters carried me on their backs,” Dr Masare told The Skyline View in September 2019. “I was not allowed to walk. I was loved; I grew up in an environment of being loved.”
Due to remarkable challenges like droughts and floods in Tanzania, it was a normal occurrence for a young boy to help around the farm. Masare’s mother was incredibly special to him, and she knew that he was destined for more success than just growing sugarcanes and beans all day long. As a result, she committed to work herself to make money for her son’s education. When he was around 10 years old, it became clear that his intelligence was off the charts, declining an opportunity to become a priest within the Catholic Church.
When he finally landed in the Bay Area, Masare committed himself to furthering his education by earning his masters degree in political science from UC Berkeley in 1970. Eight years later, he acquired his PhD.
Aside from his efforts in educating college students. Masare’s work also features his Tanzanian roots. Since 1996, he’s been an essential part of the Tanzanian Community Organization, currently serving as the Chairman of the Conflict Resolution Committee. He’s a member of the board of directors as well.
Dr. Masare accepted a job at Skyline College in 1985, a place he wouldn’t leave until three and a half decades later.
Known for his thick African accent, Masare often rolled into every one of his classes prepared to teach a variety of different subjects. After eight presidential elections and countless historic moments along the way, it was difficult for him to find something uninteresting to speak about. While he wasn’t reviewing diverse talking points such as being black in America, Masare would often enjoy hyping up his own children.
“Dr. Masare is a gentleman,” said Masare’s fellow Skyline political science professor Jeffrey Diamond, having worked with him in the past. “He is always friendly and gracious with colleagues, and kind and generous towards students. Students love him. Hopefully he will swing by for visits once we again begin teaching a regular schedule back on campus.”
A pandemic, a historic election, and protests against racial injustice — Masare has taught about these kinds of situations, and similar ones, for many years. Now, all three are occurring simultaneously. While he won’t stop speaking on the issues that he’s most passionate about, Dr. Johannes Masare strolls into sunset with his message sent — one he’s been composing for 53 years.