Ed Pastor, former Arizona congressman and ASU donor, dead at 75

Pastor's death drew emotional responses from ASU

Ed Pastor,  the first Mexican-American congressman to represent Arizona and an ASU alumnus who contributed to the University, died overnight Tuesday, at age 75. 

Pastor graduated from ASU in 1966 and was the first in his family to attend college, according to his congressional biography

In Congress he worked on civil rights and equal opportunity issues in Arizona. Some prominent issues he supported included the DREAM act and universal healthcare. 

President Michael Crow said in a statement Wednesday that Pastor's death was a personal loss for the University. 

"For ASU, this is a very personal loss, because Ed was a diehard Sun Devil and ASU advocate and remained highly involved with the university after retiring from Congress," Crow said in the statement. "Ed will be forever remembered through our Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service and all the many ASU initiatives that bear his name."

Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams said in a statement Wednesday that Pastor contributed to the city in important ways. 

"For years, he was our greatest champion in Congress, delivering the help we needed to make light rail a reality, make Sky Harbor one of the best airports in the nation and so much more," Williams said in the statement. "His legacy is all around us and also lives on through his two daughters, who followed in his footsteps by leading lives of public service."

In 2015, Pastor donated $1 million from his leftover campaign money to ASU to start the Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service, according to azcentral. 

In that same year, Rep. Ruben Gallego from Arizona's 7th Congressional District introduced a bill to rename the downtown post office after Pastor and led the effort to pass it the following year.

The Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service at ASU, which is part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, is dedicated to promoting and encouraging political engagement and public service among students at ASU and the community, according the center.

Jonathan Koppell, the Dean of the Watts College of Public Service & Community Solutions, said Pastor was dedicated to sparking civic engagement. 

“Many young people are committed to public service and passionate about making a difference in the world and a lot of them have come to see politics as a not particularly effective way of making a difference,” Koppell said. “(Pastor) wanted to sort of push against that and say 'hey, if you’re not engaged in politics you’re missing out on a big part of why things are the way they are.'”

The executive director of the center, Alberto Olivas, said Pastor helped students who were interested in running for office. 

“He has been very involved with the center funding to help provide guidance and advice for students that are looking at different career options, but also considering different paths to leadership,” Olivas said. “Some students want to run for office and he was able to talk to students about the realities of doing that.”

Olivas also said Pastor had a great relationship with all members of the community and the ASU community.

“He had great relationships with all the tribes and with community leaders — Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent — and with all of the (Arizona) counties, but he often was a great champion for ASU,” Olivas said. “He often touted the accomplishments and the advancements of the University in his public remarks and received a medal of distinction from the University President Michael Crow.”

Koppell said Pastor attended an event for the center just a few weeks ago.

"Just a few weeks ago he attended our spirit of service lunch where we celebrate and try and support one of the signature programs of the Pastor Center which is the Spirit of Service Scholars Program," Koppell said. "He was there, he was engaged and participated in a lively discussion about the election."

More than his contributions to the state and ASU, Koppell described Pastor as a kind and respectful member of the community. 

"Whoever he dealt with whether it was the waiter in a restaurant or the president of the United States, he treated everybody with the same level of respect and regards," Koppell said. “He’s just an incredibly honorable human being who shows us how we should behave not just as an elected official but as a member of the community.”

 Reach the reporter at mzhao49@asu.edu and follow @michelle_zhao23 on Twitter. 

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