Few know his first name, but almost everyone on the Mount Vernon Campus knows his signature phrase: “Take ’em on down now.”
Mr. Plummer – who said he only shares his first name with those who win his respect – is the supervisor of The Vern Express, a difficult but often unnoticed job on GW’s satellite campus. Every day he ensures that students make it to class on time, all while coordinating a fleet of vehicles through unpredictable traffic and weather.
Many of those who see him on a regular basis said they appreciate his caring attitude and prompt service, which can be a pleasant surprise before an early morning class. And with a smile about as broad as his shoulders, Plummer has become an important part of students’ everyday lives.
On a recent morning, a full 9 a.m. busload was prepared to depart the Vern when Plummer asked the male riders to give their seats to ladies standing in the aisle. He followed the inquiry with a gracious thank you and “Take ’em on down now.”
“Mr. Plummer is great,” said Amanda Beyersmith, a senior who lives on the Vern. “He greets me every time I see him around the Vern Express stop and chats.”
Freshman Ray Ashton, a resident of the Vern, said he also recognizes Plummer’s quality of work.
“When he’s not there, [the buses] are not on time at all,” Aston said.
Despite his reputation, the 57-year-old is often quiet and reserved. On most days, he sits on a bench near the bus stop, leaning forward with his hands in his lap.
His hard work and personality have earned him a great deal of respect among GW staff members as well. Elan Schnitzer, marketing coordinator for event and special services for Mount Vernon Campus Life, said Plummer can occasionally “come off a bit gruff,” but he “has been invaluable” as well as “caring” and “good about what he does.”
Plummer is an area native, born in Herndon, Va., in 1950. He was raised in Northeast near Catholic University and now lives in Maryland with his wife, Patricia.
Plummer joined the Marine Corps at 18 and was deployed to the jungles of Vietnam. He has few fond memories of his time spent in Southeast Asia. When asked about it, he paused, rubbed his brow, leaned forward and said that his “most memorable time in Vietnam was leaving.”
Viet Cong fighters who made runs into South Vietnam – past the sparsely placed watchtowers – were repeatedly rebuffed by Plummer and U.S. forces using armored personnel carriers, he said.
“It was a heck of an experience,” Plummer said with a slightly stronger and proud tone as he lifted his chin, “I even got to see Saigon before it was blown off the map.”
After returning home, Plummer went into law enforcement, at first locally and then at the CIA facility in Langley, Va. He worked for five years in the field before transitioning into private security at Catholic University in 1978, where he worked for 27 years. He was one of the first university police officers to pass through police academy training. Then, he started driving buses for Greyhound part time and has been in the bus business ever since.
“I was always interested in transportation and law enforcement,” he said. “I combined them and that’s how I put my kids through school.”
Plummer plans to retire soon and he already knows what his new job will be. He leaned back on the bench and said with a sigh, “I love to fish.”