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Bus driver Big Mike inspires students with positive spirit

<p>Michael "Big Mike"&nbsp;Eubanks has worked at Duke as a bus driver for seven years and is well known among students for his catchphrase, "life's good."</p>

Michael "Big Mike" Eubanks has worked at Duke as a bus driver for seven years and is well known among students for his catchphrase, "life's good."

One Duke bus driver has become well known among students for his high spirits and his enthusiastic mantra, "life’s good."

Michael Eubanks—better known to students as "Big Mike"—can be found during weeknights of the academic year driving buses between East and West Campus. When students retreat to the bus after a night at the library or a tent shift in Krzyzewskiville, asking how he is doing, Big Mike often flashes an “L” hand signal and proclaims, “life’s good”.

“Anybody that knows Big Mike knows that that’s my hook,” he said.

When he first started working at Duke, Big Mike said he was drawn to Coach Mike Kryzyzewski’s team slogan, that the team and the University are a Duke family.

“That really stuck with me, 'we are family,'" he said. "Do not to one of your cohorts that you wouldn’t want somebody to do to your mother, brother, sister, niece, nephew."

One day a student asked him about his day and Big Mike responded with "life's good," which he decided encompassed Coach K's philosophy and became his signature motto. 

Having worked at the University for over seven years, Big Mike said that he tries to show support for students through small gestures, such as making shout-outs to students painting the bridge between East and West Campus or giving a thumbs-up. 

With a personality a size that is fitting for his nickname, he has been able to show his concern for students.

“When you encounter him you immediately feel his warmth and love for you,” junior Janiece Morgan said.

To keep up his energy, Big Mike said that he tries to take good care of himself physically in order to maintain a positive mental psyche and that he has been a vegetarian for the past 23 years. He noted that rest is crucial to provide him energy for his evening shifts, which he prefers over the daytime ones.

“You get out of life what you put into life,” he said.

During his time at Duke, Big Mike noted that he has witnessed many crazy bus rides. He recalled an instance five years ago when he was driving the C2 and saw several students playing in the snow in nothing but their bathing suits, acting as if their behavior was completely normal.

“I was like, ‘you guys are gonna be sick,'” Big Mike said. “That was the biggest thing that stood out in my mind, just really crazy.”

He noted that his biggest pet peeve is when students put their feet on the seats because it transfers germs.

“I tell people please be mindful of others because this is a shared space,” he said.

Despite his joyful attitude, Big Mike has gone through several struggles in his personal life, with his wife having to travel out of town to care for his mother-in-law, who requires dialysis treatment. He noted that he has tried to remain positive during the ordeal.

“In spite of everything that we are all going through in our roughest moment, even though you can’t imagine so, the situation that you are in that is so bleak and so negative—it could be a hundred times worse,” he said. “Who am I to complain?”

Last week, Jay Attys, Trinity '15, came up with the idea to create a GoFundMe to thank Big Mike for his kindness and to support his family. The campaign has raised over $1500 as of Monday evening.

Big Mike expressed gratitude that he has been so well received by students. He said that the funds raised will allow him to travel to visit his wife in Pennsylvania, noting that he plans to make the drive from Durham this weekend.

"It’s tough for a man to reach out for help," he said. "I didn’t ask for help, somebody recognized there was a need by me just talking about it. For that I’m forever grateful, and I’m very humbled by the gesture. It’s very overwhelming.

Big Mike said that he and his family are extremely grateful for the outpouring of support. He noted that when students thank him for doing small deeds such as stopping to pick them up in the rain, he asks students to simply pay it forward.

"It's not the big things in life that make a difference," he said. "It's the really small things that are very impactful."

Claire Ballentine contributed reporting.