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Harper's road to happiness

By Sarah Hess
On January 16, 2018

Claude Harper, a Lion Traxx bus driver, sits on a tractor at his farm. He enjoys meeting new people while driving for Lion Traxx. Sarah Hess/The Lion's Roar

Claude Harper, Lion Traxx bus driver, sees his job as a chance to meet new people and make sure they feel welcomed. 

A native of Loranger, Harper grew up on a dairy farm and began his driving in the fields.

“I was a driver before I went to college,” said Harper. “I grew up on a farm, and I did a lot of hauling grain and hay and stuff like that. Then I went to college and got a degree in rehabilitative counseling. There wasn’t a lot of stuff in this area in that degree field, so I went back to driving.”

He has been a bus driver at the university for three years and was an 18-wheeler driver beforehand, driving all over the country for companies such as Walmart and the U.S. military.

Harper went from transporting goods to transporting students. 

“Driving all over the country, I enjoyed seeing different parts of the country,” said Harper. “You know that was one question in my interview at Southeastern is, ‘You’ve been driving all over this country, how are you going to drive around this little campus here.’ My answer to them was, ‘Every time I pick up a new student, that’s a new person I’ll be able to meet.’” 

Though it could be monotonous navigating the same route, Harper finds joy meeting a new person at every stop on his route. 

 “As a driver, I’ve logged over 1.3 million miles,” said Harper. “But when you meet different students every day, you greet a different student every day.”  

Harper enjoys hunting, fishing and working on his family’s farm. He shares the farm with his son and daughter. 

Harper’s daughter Administrative Coordinator of the Parking Office Crystal Lato uses the opportunity of working at the university to see her father more.

“I love having him there,” said Lato. “When I’m not too bogged down with school and work, we do take lunch breaks together.”

Harper makes sure that every student feels welcomed on his bus, greeting every student that enters and on holidays even giving out candy to riders. 

“I say good morning, good afternoon or whatever to every student that gets on my bus, and I say, ‘Have a great day’ to every student who gets off,” said Harper. “My thing is whatever kind of day they come to Southeastern having, I hope that I can make an impact to make it a little bit better.”

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