He greeted every single person who stepped foot on the bus with a smile.
He knew multiple students by name. He knew their major, their schedule and where they were headed. He knew their plan for the day, and what they were doing that evening. He knew when they were graduating, how their extracurriculars were and what they planned to do after school.
He took care and pride in keeping students safe, especially at night.
Ball State University bus driver Brian Kemp has driven campus shuttles for five years. For him, the best part about this job is the students.
“I love talking to [students], finding out different majors. I always talk to everybody. I’m a people person. The students are my favorite part,” Kemp said.
He shared a story about a student who lost their wallet and phone on a bus. Kemp went out of his way after a shift to return the objects after his route.
“I try to be me and just treat people like they want to be treated, and I want to be treated good,” Kemp said. “Since I want to be treated good, I try to treat everybody else good.”
The time he’s taken to go above and beyond in his interactions with students hasn’t gone unnoticed.
The students left him a card, expressing their thanks. It read, “We are blessed to have a driver like you at Ball State!”
The driver’s dedication to the Ball State community was recognized by President Mearns in his Fall Convocation remarks in 2020. Mearns received positive emails from students about Kemp and other drivers on campus.
“Brian’s dedication exemplifies our individual and collective commitment to excellence,” Mearns said in his remarks.
Kemp was appreciative of the recognition and said it was an honor. He has lived in the Muncie community all of his life, and he graduated from Muncie Central in 1998.
Kemp’s mother worked at Ball State for 30 years. She was a custodian who helped clean Emens Auditorium, the Bracken Library and the campus apartments.
Kemp remembered his mother bringing him to work with her. He said he’s been able to see first hand the way campus has changed over the years. He is able to recount how even the number of students changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Outside of driving a campus shuttle, Kemp is a bus driver for the Muncie Community Schools district.
He is also a minister at Greater Mt. Calvary Church of God In Christ in Muncie. For Kemp, his main desire in life is to have a church, a dream he has had since he was 14 years old.
“It’s kind of fun that I get to minister to people all over,” Kemp said.
Kemp said he uses his interactions in both church and campus to try and teach students about financial literacy and smart spending. Kemp is a fan of Dave Ramsey and likes to share some of those ideas with students, he said.
“I believe you really need to earn money, especially in the Black community,” Kemp said. “A lot of people don’t know how to budget what they’re going to spend … it’s important to get their priorities straight.”
Ball State Bus Drivers aren’t paid in the summer, said Kemp. Additionally, he felt like he wasn’t making enough.
“You don’t get paid in the summer, and when you don’t get paid in the summer, and you [have] bills, it’s hard to pay,” Kemp said.
According to a Ball State job posting, a campus bus driver makes $19.38 an hour, and a .25 cent premium is added to second-shift drivers. The hours would be 2:45-11:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11:30 a.m. -5:30 p.m. on Friday.
If a driver were to drive all those hours, they would make a biweekly take-home pay of $1,626.24 before taxes.
According to Living Wage Calculator, for someone of Brian’s living situation of having one income and one child, he would need to be making $31.47 an hour to have a livable wage in Delaware county.
Kemp said though using Ramsey's financial advice helped him buy a house, money doesn’t come easily.
That is why his last route was Feb. 8. Kemp left his job as a campus bus driver to become a semi-truck driver. He’ll drive during the week and be home during the weekends.
The hardest part about leaving Ball State is leaving the students.
“Driving a bus is boring. It’s the same loop all day,” Kemp said. “I’ll miss the students the most, they make it fun.”
Kemp’s last route was the busiest shift he had in a long time, he said. Students and staff came and went, riding with him for a long time just to share stories and give their well wishes. Students gave Kemp cards and tokens of their appreciation for his time there.
Kemp’s family was able to accompany him on his last shift.
“He is my favorite bus driver,” Sammantha Nowak-Wolff, graduate student studying physics, said before getting off her last ride with Kemp. “I’m a little disappointed that he's going to be gone because who else am I going to talk to?”
One gift given to Kemp unexpectedly was a GoFundMe from first-year students Allison Guard and Sophia Lehman.
The two had ridden Kemp’s route a few times and were always so touched by the time he spent talking and interacting with students.
“I specifically remember this one time we were riding the bus, and he was playing a really good song, and it was really late at night, and [Lehman] started dancing, and he started hyping her up at the back of the bus,” Guard said. “And that just made my night. He’s just always so friendly.”
The choice to make the GoFundMe took place on a “random afternoon,” according to Lehman.
“We were going to the stadium to get our car … and he opened up about his financial situations and was like, ‘I have to leave Ball State,’ and we decided on like a random afternoon, two days after that bus ride, we were going to start this GoFundMe because even though he’s leaving to do something else, … he really needed it,” Lehman said.
The two used social media as a way to raise money. They shared it on unofficial Ball State Instagram accounts, as well as on a Ball State University Campus Snapchat Story.
“Even though he doesn’t think he’s doing a lot for us, driving a bus for a bunch of teenage kids is not an easy job, but the fact that he makes it fun for all of us and interacts with all of us … he’s just a really good guy,” Lehman said. “We thought that he deserved it.”
As of Feb. 10, the GoFundMe has $255.
Kemp said he was absolutely grateful for the gifts, especially the GoFundMe.
‘Wow. I don’t even know what to say,” he said. “Wow.”
Contact Olivia Ground with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @liv_ground_25.