Roland Parrish

Krannert alumnus Roland Parrish serves as president, CEO and owner of Parrish McDonald's Restaurants Ltd., which owns 25 McDonald's franchises in North Texas. (Photo by Mark Simons)

Parrish, a recipient of Krannert’s Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurship Award, credits much of his success to his mentor, Cornell Bell.

No discussion of Roland Parrish’s fast track to success would be complete without discussing the impact that the man he always refers to as Dr. Bell made on him as a young man.

Parrish and Bell

Roland Parrish joined Krannert faculty, staff, students and other BOP alumni at a retirement celebration for Cornell Bell in 2006. (Photo by John Underwood)

Bell, who retired in 2006 and died in 2009, devoted more than 37 years of his career recruiting and mentoring minority students as the director of Business Opportunity Program (BOP). The popular faculty member served as a mentor and father figure to hundreds of Krannert School graduate and undergraduate students.

It was Bell who persuaded young Roland to switch his plans to major in engineering at Purdue. Parrish became the first student Bell recruited when he took over the fledgling program.

“Krannert and the Business Opportunity Program became the cornerstone of my success,” Parrish says.

Bell’s tough-love mentorship reinforced the discipline, work ethic and desire to contribute to the greater good that Parrish learned from his parents and family. Over the years, his relationship with Bell blossomed into mutual respect, affection and ultimately a friendship. Parrish cherishes the letter he received in 2000 as Bell was recovering from open-heart surgery.

“Krannert and the Business Opportunity Program became the cornerstone of my success.”
“He and his wife didn’t have children, so he called those of us in BOP ‘his children.’ But I got a letter from him in 2000, and he told me I was his No. 1 son,” says Parrish, who later became co-executor of Bell’s estate. Parrish and other BOP alumni helped develop the Purdue Libraries Archives and Special Collections exhibit “Purdue’s Bellwether of Diversity: The Life and Legacy of Dr. Cornell Bell.” See related story.

In addition to running his company, Parrish continues to support Purdue athletics and the Krannert School, including donating funds for a scholarship in Bell’s memory. He also sits on the boards of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Texas and the Owner Operators Reinsurance Co., and has served as the vice chairperson of the McDonald’s Owners National Advertising Fund, which approaches $500 million in advertising related expenditures annually.

1 | 2 | 3