The Train Guy

Spring 2012

Ed Hums (’75) was climbing around the old 5332 ND & W engine in his good “railroad baron” suit, and having a ball. For the ultimate of train buffs, a man who turns his car around to watch a train go through a crossing, a photo opportunity with the H.K. Porter engine—a retired workhorse disintegrating into rust near the University’s power plant—was heaven. Accounting instructor and captain of the faculty hockey team—here’s an excerpt from a recent conversation.

 Q: A lot of student athletes stop by to see you. Why?

I was one of the lead student trainers on the ‘73 national championship team, so I had a chance to work for Ara Parseghian, which was a great opportunity. I had a partial grant-in-aid that helped me get through Notre Dame. It was a real commitment of time, basically from 2 o’clock to 6:30 every day, six days a week. I think that did not help my GPA out. But when I work with the student athletes now, I realize that time commitment, because I experienced it. If you didn’t experience it, you probably aren’t going to understand it. 

Q. What are some of the other challenges that student athletes face, in your view?

A. You have to remember that these are individuals who are 19-, 20-years-old, who are performing in front of national TV audiences, where every move is on instant replay and every decision gets second-guessed. Now that’s a person who has a lot of confidence in themselves.  But one of the things I worry about is when athletes tell me, I don’t ask a question in class.  They’re concerned about how they might appear in front of their classmates.   Sometimes, you have to remind athletes about what they bring to the table when they sit down with an employer – the experiences they got in traveling, how they represent themselves, how they handle themselves, how they represent the University. They’re not just a transcript, but all of the things they’ve done at Notre Dame. Discipline, time management, decision making, teamwork, all those things learned through athletics and performed at a high level. That’s not something that most of our students will have, and so they bring a different skillset to the table.

Q: So do you think your legacy will be your work with student athletes?

A: I think just my outreach to the regular student. I’ve always told my students that I graduated in the top 80 percent of my class.  Now when a student comes to visit me, they’re usually in the same situation, they’re struggling in the classroom.  I have a perspective with the student that’s, well, here’s what you need to do, here’s what you need to think about.  To build their confidence up, I tell them that they will always have their epiphany or their “Pentecost.” I remember mine to this day. It was March 1975 and I was doing an accounting homework assignment over in LaFortune Center. I had my accounting spreadsheets all in front of me, and when I looked at it, they all made sense, page after page after page. I said to myself, this stuff is not that hard.

Q: We hear that Jeff Samardzija (Chicago Cubs pitcher and former ND football player) remembers you as “the train guy.” What’s the fascination with trains?

A: When I was a little kid, we lived out south of Mishawaka and if I was good during church services – which wasn’t very often – my mom would take me down to the train station to watch the trains. And she would always tell a story.  And then years ago, my dad and I would just go down and watch trains, just the two of us, and we’d always watch the Twentieth Century Limited go through Mishawaka. At 6:05, that’s exactly when it would go through, and it was just this big, beautiful streamliner with a blue herald on the back of the club car.  So those are great memories of when I was with my mother, and especially with my dad. We’d go watch trains and talk about it and stuff, just the two of us.  So that’s kind of how it got into my system way back then.