As students hop on the LX bus traveling between the College Avenue and Livingston campuses, a welcoming voice greets them, reminding them they are one thought away from greatness.
That voice belongs to retired Newark firefighter and now University bus driver Stan McNeil, whose words have become a topic of discussion among students at the University.
Videos of McNeil’s motivational speeches posted to social media websites have become popular among students, and a Facebook fan page was created in his honor.
Born and raised in South Carolina, McNeil joined the Navy. After leaving the Navy, he became a Newark firefighter, a job he would keep for more than 25 years.
McNeil started working as a bus driver at the University in September after two years of retirement, he said.
As a man who is married with two kids and holds faith in God, McNeil said he likes helping people throughout the day.
“I enjoy motivating students,” McNeil said. “It’s important to motivate people because it helps bridge the gap.”
McNeil said he is helping bridge that gap by offering inspiring words to students — something older people did for him when he was a young man in South Carolina.
“Older people gave me encouraging words growing up, so I want to help people today [by giving them],” McNeil said.
Another reason for his stimulating words is the fact that he thinks this is one of the greatest generations in history.
“I have great expectations for [these students],” he said. “Students in school today are the people who will help find a cure for cancer and AIDS.”
Giving these encouraging words is joy for him, McNeil said.
“My greatest joy is seeing the students do well,” he said.
McNeil said he gets positive feedback from students and his sentiments do not go unnoticed.
“People give me very admirable compliments and positive feedback,” McNeil said. “I’m very appreciative of what they say.”
Students like School of Arts and Sciences senior John Malchow, said McNeil is the “Mr. Rogers,” from the TV show “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” of the University.
“Beyond entertainment value and the power of personality, Stan’s message is very meaningful,” Malchow said. “He always encourages students to stay positive, work hard and be kind to one another.”
Melissa Mendonca, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said McNeil is a great motivator to students at the University.
“He always makes you feel better after a tough day. It’s great encouragement,” Mendonca said. “It’s a shame he came in so late in my college career.”
Sherylene Diaz, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said McNeil also makes her feel better about her day.
“As soon as you walk inside the bus, he starts clapping. He never stops encouraging you to do the best,” Diaz said. “We need more people like this at Rutgers and in the world. It is so refreshing to hear the encouragement and have someone always rooting for you and believing in you.”
Hajra Syed, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said she was not expecting McNeil’s words of encouragement, but she appreciated them.
“His words are sweet and motivational,” Syed said. “It’s nice to see that a stranger can care.”
McNeil said he is not doing anything special, just adding onto what great parents and teachers have already done. He said students deserve to strive for the best because they want the country to be the best.
“We have to want success for ourselves and other people,” McNeil said. “It makes our community stronger, which makes our country stronger.”
McNeil said everyone needs challenges to push them to greatness, and everyone should get a chance, he said.
“Students should know that everyone deserves a chance,” McNeil said. “Humanity is about bringing the best out of each other.”