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Inspiring a campus from behind the wheel

Steven Parker, driving his route

Steven Parker welcomes riders to his Stampede route. Photo: NANCY J. PARISI

By MARCENE ROBINSON

Published May 24, 2013

Steven Parker
“A lot of students tell me that getting on the bus with me makes their day. That’s what I set out to do, to make everybody happy and put a smile on someone’s face, because I like to smile and be happy.”
Steven Parker

UB Stampede driver Steven Parker follows the same routine for his three-minute route from the Student Union to the Ellicott Complex. He greets students aboard his bus with a warm welcome over the microphone, tells them a word for the day and an inspirational thought, and then finishes with a game of their choice, usually the classic trivia-themed “Jeopardy” or “Family Feud.”

While routine to Parker, his rides brighten the mood of anyone who steps on board. When UB recently upgraded its fleet of Stampede buses, the buses came equipped with microphones. Parker, who has driven UB buses for almost five years, viewed this as an opportunity to become more interactive with his passengers.

“A lot of students tell me that getting on the bus with me makes their day,” says Parker. “That’s what I set out to do, to make everybody happy and put a smile on someone’s face, because I like to smile and be happy.”

Helping others is the foundation on which Parker has built his life. A Stampede driver by day, at night Parker cares for those with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities through the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, a position he picked up to honor his late sister who suffered from Down syndrome.

In his free time, Parker guides others spiritually as a pastor. Although reluctant at first to go into the ministry, he grew up in a household where both parents were pastors and knew he eventually would follow a similar calling. After 15 years of ministering, Parker now leads a new church in Buffalo, The Sanctuary.

“As far as what I do here on campus and as a pastor, that’s just something that I know is God-given,” says Parker. “He has given me a heart for people, so I try to touch at least one person every day.”

Parker’s ministry influences much of his work on campus. While driving to the Ellicott Complex one day, he saw a student walking and stopped both a game of “Jeopardy” and the bus to speak with her. He knew her sister was in the hospital and had to check to see if she was doing better.

His genuine concern for students has led him to develop positive relationships with many of them outside the Stampede. More than 800 students follow him on Twitter to read his words and inspirational thoughts of the day—his Twitter handle is @iampastorparker. He also was asked by a group of students to lead their Bible studies.

“Because we service more than 25,000 people each day, customer service is one of the core components of our training in Parking and Transportation Services,” says Chris Austin, assistant director of parking and transportation services.

“It’s great to see that Steven has made such a positive impact on the folks that he services each day by creating a light-hearted, stress-free ride, and by bringing a smile to the passengers that get on his bus.”

Following his own inspirational words, “Today is the beginning of the rest of your life,” Parker decided to return to school and complete his undergraduate education. Studying paralegal studies at Bryant and Stratton College, he has five more classes until graduation and hopes to continue his education at UB’s Law School.

His ambition to become a lawyer stems from a promise he made to his grandmother that he would pursue the profession. Although she has passed away, Parker still plans to fulfill his promise, with the goal of becoming a family court judge. A man of compassion, Parker believes that is where he can impact the most lives.

READER COMMENTS

Pastor Parker is the best! I just smile when I see the bus door open and Pastor Parker is sitting in the driver seat with a smile!  Some students even skip buses to ride on his bus!

Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez

What is his twitter handle? Would love to follow him!

Gagandip Singh

I love this guy!

Eric Kishel

He's awesome! Certainly makes my day! :) Thanks Pastor Parker!

Mahisha Latha Naidu

I remember riding the crowded Bluebirds before they Stampeded and being told repeatedly with a smile to move in closer and "Make it like a family in there."

Wayne Domnitz

Pastor Parker is truly a light for the students that he drives. His genuineness is a breath of fresh air in a setting where people don't ordinarily interact. Thank you Pastor Parker for being an inspiration to all students of faith, and may our Lord bless your work!

Benjamin S Osenbach