The Hamilton bus driver on HSR route 51 has two degrees from McMaster University — one in biology, another in environmental science.
Now, as he helps Hamilton's bright, young minds get to school on time, Frank Palin hands out smiles and a song. And for that, they love him.
"Unfortunately, I wasn't able to pursue my passion, but it's nice talking to (the McMaster students) and seeing the thrill they get to talk about what they're doing, the program they're in," said Palin, as he drove the 51 route between McMaster and downtown Hamilton.
"I've been a Mac student, a university student," he said. "I know how hard they work. But they love what they do, and it really shows."
'He makes my day every single morning.' - Muntazer Alkayat, McMaster University student
Take a ride on route 51 and you might hear a song over the P.A. system. He sometimes delivers a rendition of "Wheels on the Bus," singing to riders to 'Move on back, move on back, move on back.'
He said his singing was inspired by his own experience on a busy bus where the driver yelled at passengers to move back.
"It just didn't feel right," Palin said. "And I know from experience that you can catch more flies with honey than you can with salt, so I try to make it a laughable experience and everyone responds to it."
'Spotted' on the 51 bus
Students have noticed.
"He's a really, really great guy," said Muntazer Alkayat, a third-year student at McMaster studying environmental science. "He makes my day every single morning. He just always smiles and says thank you. He says good morning and greets everyone.
'I just hope that Frank will see how much of an impact he's made on so many students.' - Diana Marginean, McMaster University student
"When I'm just sad or something, I just get on the bus and then see him, and he's all enthusiastic and happy," he said. "And that affects me."
Students who take the 51 route are now pitching in to give Palin, who they call "Friendly Frank," a gift.
"Let's try and show him our appreciation for making our days," says a GoFundMe campaign set up for the effort. "He definitely deserves it!"
Organizers set the target at $500, and say they'll poll all donors to decide what to give Palin — perhaps a "simple gift" or a travel voucher to show their appreciation. Launched last Monday, the fundraiser had raised $245 by this Monday afternoon.
"I don't really care how much money we raise," said Diana Marginean, who posted the campaign. "I just hope that Frank will see how much of an impact he's made on so many students."
The effort started with a thread on the popular "Spotted at Mac" Facebook page. Alkayat wrote the post because he said he felt like Palin should be appreciated more. A group chat mobilized with a few people interested to get him a gift.
Alkayat said he's talked with Palin before about how this year's rain storms damaged Palin's cottage, up north. Alkayat wondered if the gift might be something that could help.
More than that, he said he hopes the campaign reminds people that your mood has the power to affect other people's days, regardless of your job.
Palin has definitely left an impression. He said he has gotten many thank-yous and heard that people have said riding the HSR on his bus was a positive experience.
"When I became a bus driver, I wanted to make riding public transit as positive of an experience for people as possible, because it's going to be the way of the future," he said.