Alumnus Roland Parrish puts Libraries' project on fast track with $2 million gift

October 14, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Roland Parrish has plenty of experience setting the pace, both as a successful Purdue University student-athlete and as an entrepreneur. Now Parrish is sharing his winning ways with a $2 million leadership gift to support the $4.2 million Management and Economics Library renovation project.

Roland Parrish

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When complete in early 2012, the Roland G. Parrish Library of Management and Economics will stand as a prototype state-of-the-art library, laboratory and learning commons. He will be honored with a Pinnacle Award, the highest recognition for philanthropic contributions to the university, during an invitation-only ceremony at 3 p.m. Friday (Oct. 15) at the library that will bear his name.

"My experience at Purdue was very positive, and my success speaks to the quality of education I received at the university," said Parrish, who graduated from Purdue in 1975 with a bachelor's degree in industrial management and earned a master's degree in management in 1976.

Parrish is the president, CEO and owner of Parrish McDonald's Restaurants Ltd., which owns 25 McDonald's franchises in North Texas. The average franchisee owns five restaurants. His company consistently makes Black Enterprise magazine's BE 100 as one of the Top 100 Black Owned Businesses in the United States -- another goal he had set and quickly met.

He was elected in September as the 2011-12 chairman and CEO of the National Black McDonald's Association, a 38-year-old organization that represents 300 franchises and 1,350 restaurants with a combined sales of $2.7 billion. While he was vice chair for OPNAD, the national owner/operator's advertising fund, from 2003-05, he chaired a team that helped spur 14 percent growth in company sales over the last half of 2003. The group worked with a $500 million marketing budget for 13,000 restaurants and helped increase system-wide sales by more than $20 billion, introducing new marketing ideas and products, and McDonald's has been on a roll since.

Parrish arrived at Purdue in 1971 on a full athletic scholarship, thanks to his success as a Hammond, Ind., high school All-American in track and field and his 1971 Indiana state title in the 800-meter run. He lettered four years on Purdue's track and field team, served as team captain in his senior year and was voted MVP twice by his teammates.

He still felt the pull of academics even greater.

"I spent more time in the Libraries than on the track during my time on campus, and a lot of my weekly rituals and routines centered around the library," said Parrish, an avid reader and life-long learning advocate.

Parrish also performed in the Black Voices of Inspiration singing group at Purdue. Applying his athletic discipline to academics, he made the dean's list seven out of eight semesters.

"Roland Parrish is truly one of Purdue's most cherished partners," Purdue President France A. Córdova said.

Córdova remembers Parrish declaring his passion for libraries and expressing his interest in the library renovation project at Krannert during their first meeting in 2009. That planned 30-minute encounter turned into a two-hour discussion.

"We met in Dallas in January 2009, and Roland acknowledged the central role libraries played in his quest for academic excellence," she said. "I remember him recounting fondly all the time he spent studying amid the stacks and carrels of the Purdue Libraries in the early 1970s. This gift is a testament to his love of learning and his recognition of the Libraries as an evolving knowledge and information center for present and future students. Roland's dedication to optimizing the student learning experience at Purdue is only surpassed by his position as an exemplary role model in the Boilermaker tradition. We are humbled and grateful for his many contributions to our university."

Libraries Dean James L. Mullins said Parrish's gift embodied his vision of transforming the MEL library into a learning space unique to Purdue and still rare in academia.  

"Roland's gift reflects his love of the library as an institution that is central to the mission of higher education -- past, present and future," Mullins said. "His own experience and subsequent success inspired him to make a transformative learning environment possible to a new generation, in new ways, with new technologies and methods. We are grateful for Roland's vision, leadership and generosity."

Parrish's gift will help complete the Management and Economics Library project. Already, the LearnLab™, a 40-seat interactive learning space on the second-floor of the Krannert Building, has transformed classroom space into a collaborative environment equipped with smart board technologies and group workspaces.

The recently completed second phase of construction includes team collaboration media stations, a multimedia production center, two semiprivate group study rooms and a business information mini-classroom to support the accounting and finance curriculum. The third phase creates a coffee shop and a commons area and will be finished in early 2012.

"Mr. Parrish exemplifies the quality and caliber of students that Krannert - and the Business Opportunity Program - wants to recruit," said Jerry Lynch, interim dean of the Krannert School of Management. "His success personifies the desired results. He exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit that a Krannert education encourages, and his generosity is an example we hope our future alumni will emulate."

Parrish, a recipient of Krannert's Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurship Award, credits much of his success to the education he received at Purdue to his mentor, Cornell Bell. Parrish was the first student recruited by Bell to Krannert's then-fledging Business Opportunity Program.

Bell, who retired in 2006 and died in 2009, devoted more than 37 years to recruiting and mentoring minority students as the program's director.

"Krannert and the BOP, thanks to Dr. Bell, became the cornerstone of my success," Parrish said.

In addition to the library, Parrish supports Purdue Athletics and the Krannert School. He also donated funds for the Lambert Fieldhouse scoreboard and a scholarship in memory of Bell. Another scholarship supports students through the Black Cultural Center.

The Roland G. Parrish Library of Management and Economics bears distinction as Purdue's first major campus facility named in honor of an African-American alumnus.

Parrish serves on several boards, including the Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Texas and the Owner Operators Reinsurance Co.

Parrish and his wife, Jewel, a Lafayette, Ind., native, and their two children, Rowland and Auluna Jade, reside in DeSoto, Texas. Their daughter is a junior at Purdue.  

Writer: Grant Flora, 765-494-3676,

Sources:   James L. Mullins, 765-494-2900,

                    France A. Córdova,

                   Jerry Lynch, 765-494-4388,

Note to Journalists: Reporters interested in speaking with Roland Parrish should contact Grant Flora at 765-494-3676,, or Jim Bush at 765-494-2077,