Roland Parrish

Roland Parrish, accompanied by his wife, Jewel, received the Pinnacle Award from Purdue President France A. Córdova in October. (Photo by Mark Simons)

Parrish was on the fast track to success even before he arrived at Purdue in 1971 on a full athletic scholarship. He was a Hammond, Ind., high school All-American in track and field and won the 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 — an honor he cherishes to this day.

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.

And when he wasn’t at the library or on the track setting records, he often performed at a local church, where he met his Jewel.

“I spent more time in the libraries than on the track during my time on campus.”
Parrish’s support of the project began in 2009 during a planned 30-minute encounter with President France A. Córdova and First Gentleman Chris Foster that turned into a two-hour, free-ranging discussion.

And it was at that 2009 meeting that Córdova introduced Parrish to Purdue Libraries Dean James L. Mullins. Subsequently, in July 2009, the two men began meeting to discuss Mullins’ vision for the library of the future. And the rest is, literally, history. Today, 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.

“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,” says Parrish, an avid reader and lifelong learning advocate. Parrish takes pride knowing that Krannert students will soon study in a state-of-the-art learning center named in his honor.

“Mr. Parrish exemplifies the quality and caliber of students that Krannert wants to recruit,” said Jerry Lynch, interim dean of the Krannert School. “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.”

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