Bill Knauss is just one of Hillsdale College’s bus drivers, but in a lot of ways, he’s become more than that.
“I just hear him in the stands cheering for us,” said senior Ashlee Crowder, outside hitter on the volleyball team. “He’s just this sweet old man, always being supportive.”
Knauss’ first driving assignment was the volleyball team. Ever since, Knuass has been a loyal fan. He watches all the local games and travels to away games when the girls take charter buses. Crowder said she was particularly surprised when he drove himself separately to their game in the Upper Peninsula.
“I wanted to go to the championship in California so bad, but they flew,” Knauss said.
He never watched college volleyball before becoming the Hillsdale bus driver.
“I don’t understand all the rules yet, but I like volleyball,” Knauss said. “We’ve got some good girls here that can hit that ball something terrible, and then they will get a girl in the face and knock them right over.”
Knauss’ first trip was to northern Alabama in 2004. He did not expect many fans to come, but all the girls’ families were there. He said he enjoys getting to know the parents and coaches as well.
He said he also likes watching the swim team and cheers them on best he can.
“With the swim team, it is hard to know who’s swimming,” Knauss said. “You cannot tell who is who once they get their bonnets on.”
But the junior Sami Ward, a mid-distance swimmer, said the team still appreciates his support.
“We all love him,” Ward said. “He always watches our meets and cheers for us.”
The bus trips are lively times for Knauss too, as young, spirited college athletes surround him.
“The girls sing, laugh, talk to me — they’re great,” he said.
“He just loves driving us, and I don’t know why because we are so loud,” said Crowder, jokingly.
Knauss always plays the country radio station on the bus unless the girls put in a movie.
“He likes the movies we watch,” Ward said. “Sometimes we catch him watching them when we come back to the bus.”
On his trips, people frequently approach Knauss recognizing the Hillsdale College name on the side of the bus.
“Wherever I go, somebody knows Hillsdale College,” he said. “People come up to me and say ‘I graduated from Hillsdale’ or ‘I get the Imprimis.’ It’s surprising to see how many people know this little college.”
Knauss has lived in Reading, Mich., with his wife, a native Michigander, for the past 30 years. He has three married children and six grandchildren.
Before being employed by the college, Knauss worked in law enforcement as a deputy sheriff and as a prison guard and transportation officer for the Michigan Department of Correction.
He retired from law enforcement in December of 2000 and saw an advertisement in the newspaper for a position in security at Hillsdale in May 2001. Knauss worked part-time writing parking tickets until 2004, when Hillsdale bought its first bus. Having a bus license and previous experience driving school buses, Knauss took on the role of Hillsdale College’s bus driver.
Knauss’ farthest trip was to Florida several years ago when he drove the men’s basketball team for their tournament games between Christmas and New Year’s.
He hopes to continue driving the Hillsdale College Chargers to their future games, and all the while supporting them.
“I will drive for a few more years,” Knauss said. “It all depends on my age and health. I’m getting up there.”
As for the Hillsdale Chargers, they appreciate their bus driver.
“I think he is really funny,” Ward said. “He’s my favorite bus driver.”