Rolling into a shuttle stop next to Keeney Quadrangle on a rainy Friday night, Louis DiBiasio, a bus driver for Brown University Shuttle, looked out his right window. The stop didn’t appear to have any potential riders, but he checked again — out the rearview mirror, then the sideview — just in case a straggler was sprinting to catch the bus.
“The worst thing I hate to do is miss a student,” he said. “Oh, I hate that!”
Even though no one approached the shuttle, DiBiasio still opened the door and called out to a group of students near the bus stop.
“Anybody need a ride? Anybody need a ride?” he shouted.
This is part of DiBiasio’s routine — making sure no one misses a ride. At Josiah’s and Keeney Quad in the winter, he’ll wait longer at the bus stop in case students are waiting for the bus inside.
Louis — sometimes called Lou, affectionately referred to as Uncle Lou by his supervisor and named Luigi on his birth certificate — has driven the bustling clockwise route during the night shift since 2013.
This is 78-year-old DiBiasio’s third career, a “relaxation job,” he called it. After driving a truck around the Northeast for various companies deep into the night for 45 years, DiBiasio was ready to be present in his 15 and 18-year old grandkids’ lives during the day. He can do that with the 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. late-night shift he takes most of the week.
The energy DiBiasio brings to this job pulses through the bus and emanates outside of it. His whistling reaches the back rows, and his musical greetings, students say, brighten up countless early mornings.
“He cares about the students,” said Oren “O” Oliveira, DiBiasio’s head supervisor at First Transit. “His work ethic is unparalleled — he’s always upbeat.”
This reputation culminated in a record-breaking “Blueno Bears Admirers” post that Yanhoo Lee Cho ’21 wrote late last month. The Facebook page Blueno Bears Admirers is normally reserved for students to post their appreciation for fellow students, as well as cheesy pick-up lines. Cho’s post far exceeded the page’s typical level of reactions. While the average post receives about eight reactions, the post about DiBiasio, as of Monday morning, had 333 on its own, according to screenshots provided by the Facebook page administrators.
The post shouted out Lou and asked other students to comment with their own “love and appreciation towards Lou!” The post took off — comment after comment flowed in, ranging from personal anecdotes to thank you notes to goat emojis, often used to indicate the “Greatest of All Time.”
“I was shocked,” Cho said. “More people than I thought engaged with it — I thought people went extremely personal.” DiBiasio, who Cho calls the “purest soul” she’s met on campus, reminds Cho of her own grandfather. She sometimes asks DiBiasio to sing before the clock strikes midnight when she is on the shuttle at night.
Renny Ma ’20 shared her appreciation on the Facebook post because DiBiasio had made an impression on her as a first-year student. She’d been alone, late at night, and DiBiasio drove the shuttle from the library to Ma’s front door at her dorm. “I had no idea that anyone would be willing to do that for me,” Ma said.
“He’s just very human,” she added. “He’s not just driving a shuttle, he’s making sure that the students at Brown are safe and that they feel welcome.”
Back on the bus, DiBiasio was doing just that. At 12:01 a.m., DiBiasio’s bus pulled up near the Nelson Center, and a group of students ran to catch him. “Good morning Brown!” he exclaimed. “Goo-ood mornn-ing! It’s a beautiful mor-ning!” he continued, singing, before exclaiming, “Here comes a runner! We’ve got you, tennis boy!” On the bus hopped a student, racket in hand and dressed in fluorescent yellow. “I remember you, I dropped you off earlier!”
He repeated the same notes again, in the same jubilant tone: “Good morning, it’s a beautiful morning!”
The singing rang out into the night each time a student boarded the shuttle. He started the habit a few years ago, in an effort to “rejuvenate (students) and make them happy” late at night after studying, he said. “I’m thinking that would help them a little bit. It’s not easy going to Brown.”
“Some other bus drivers don’t greet you at all. I really enjoy his enthusiasm, the fact that it’s every night,” said Ailita Eddy ’21.
Even with unruly students, DiBiasio does his best to be accommodating. Some students have laid on the floor of his bus or gotten sick after they drank a little too much “cranberry juice,” so he keeps a bucket in the front.
DiBiasio didn’t realize the impact he was having on students until Cho printed out the Facebook post and its comments. He couldn’t have seen them otherwise because he’s rarely on the internet.
“I never knew it. I laughed, I couldn’t, didn’t believe it. I didn’t realize I made an effort like that,” he said. “I didn’t realize it went farther than I expected. I was laughing all night long.”
DiBiasio said he wants to keep driving as long as he can — according to him, his career has no end date in sight.
And so he drives on deep into the night, meticulously checking his mirrors for runners, singing good morning and picking up students who are alone after his shift ends.
“If I can just make them a little bit happier,” DiBiasio said as the bus slowed down in front of the Sciences Library, “I’ve accomplished something.”
Will Kubzansky is the 133rd editor-in-chief and president of the Brown Daily Herald. Previously, he served as a University News editor overseeing the admission & financial aid and staff & student labor beats. In his free time, he plays the guitar and soccer — both poorly.