Roland Parrish has given millions to help further the education of young people. Especially those in under-represented communities.
He’s the first African American to have a facility named in his honor at Purdue University after his $2 million leadership gift to support the management school library renovation.
While he has accomplished so much to this point, he is very open about his humble beginnings, crediting that start to much of his success and drive to close the educational gap for minority students.
“My ministry is to help people. Just to help people. That’s what I want to do. I think that God has offered me and given me blessings so that I can continue to help people,” Parrish said. “It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon what I did. It was hard work and blue-collar work ethic I learned from my parents.”
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As the CEO of Parrish Restaurants, Ltd, he owns and operates 27 McDonald’s restaurants in and around the Dallas area. He built his first in the Pleasant Grove area of Dallas -- an intentional business decision.
“I guess it’s what they call a socioeconomic challenged community, but that is the kind of community I came from,” Parrish said.
Through the years, he has used his business savvy and success to help the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders.
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“If I can provide an educational opportunity, I just think that is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s a great investment and that’s one of the things I look at. Can I provide something to them and help them live the American dream? Then hopefully, they can help someone else and pass it on,” Parrish said.
For more than 20 years, Parrish has made financial contributions to St. Philip’s School and Community Center in South Dallas, pledging $1 million to the advancement of its students. The school’s mission is to provide an education through faith-based experience, with emphasis on serving low- and moderate-income communities.
“I’m more of a doer than a talker. I want to use my platform and voice to provide an opportunity for young people. They are our future and so they are the ones who can make a difference in society. I try to do these things for them. It’s for our future,” Parrish said.
Since 2003, Parrish has hosted the annual “McMiracle On Highway 67” in December. Throughout the years, 3,000 students have received bikes and helmets thanks to Parrish’s donation of more than $300,000 to date.
Since 2010, Parrish has been the presenting sponsor of the Parrish Restaurants, Ltd Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame, which is hosted annually by the African American Museum. Housed at the museum, each year, the event honors a new group of African-American Texas athletes and coaches who have made outstanding contributions to sports.
He has supported the St. Mark’s School of Texas, in their annual fundraising efforts to feed the homeless at the Austin Street Center Shelter, in South Dallas since 2010.
His support of young scholars has also been on display during the Roland Parrish Scholarship Debate Tournament as he has partnered with the Dallas Urban Debate Alliance to award scholarships to Dallas ISD debaters annually.
“Debating helps with truancy, academic advancement, confidence in public speaking, and critical thinking skills,” Parrish said.
Parrish is a financial supporter of the Zan Wesley Holmes Outreach Center, which is located in the Frazier House. The center services young people and their families who are living in poverty. The Center’s emphasis is on South Dallas and the Southeastern sector of Dallas.
In January 2022, Parrish sponsored the inaugural Roland Parrish Band Competition where he awarded 10 North Texas band programs $5,000 for their treasury departments.
Recently, Parrish has collaborated with the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation to create the Charley Pride Fellowship Program. Named after the late country music icon who was the first Black superstar in the music genre, it’s a 10-week paid internship with a focus on increasing minority representation in sports front offices and beyond.
His philanthropy also extends to communities trying to make a comeback. Parrish is the second-largest investor for the restructuring of the Re-Imaging Red Bird Project, which will bring a Marriot Hotel and hundreds of jobs to the Red Bird community. It also means nearly 200,000 square feet of medical/clinical services facility for the southern sector (Parkland Hospital and UT Southwestern Medical Center).
“I want you to realize that I came from a humble background and that hopefully you can achieve this and go beyond what I have done. I hope I motivate young people to higher heights,” Parrish said.