December 2019

      Roland Parrish with Dave Fruits

Roland Parrish (left) with Dave Fruitt during Parrish's recent stay as Executive-in-Residence. 

Alumni Profile

One Meeting Makes an Impact on Parrish

Roland Parrish only met Ron Fruitt once, but it made an impression.

At the time, Parrish was nearing the end of his junior year and had accepted a position as a residence hall counselor (now known as a resident assistant). However, he had committed an infraction that he says put the status of his position in doubt. It was the end of the spring semester and Parrish knew he had to talk to someone to learn whether the opportunity still existed for him.

That’s where Fruitt came in.  

“I packed my car, got ready to leave thought okay, I’ll go and visit Mr. Fruitt because I expected the worst,” said Parrish. “I walked in and immediately apologized for the infraction and told him I understood that he had the power to make a decision and that I respected it and whatever decision he made. We had a great dialogue and he told me he was going to allow me the opportunity to be a counselor.”

It’s a story Parrish tells a lot because of the opportunities being a residence hall counselor opened up for him.

“I think when you go through life you come upon life lessons and you look back and say hey, that possibly was a turning point,” Parrish said. 

Parrish went on to serve as a residence hall counselor in Owen Hall while he finished his undergraduate degree as a senior and continued to serve as he completed his master’s from Krannert School of Business. Parrish was also a captain of the men’s track and field team for two seasons. He graduated in 1976.

Fruitt, a former vice president of Purdue Housing and Food Services (as it was then known), was known for his enthusiasm for Purdue and his desire to improve the experiences of students. He retired in 1996 after spending 13 years as the vice president of the department. He also held various other positions in Housing and Food Services.

Parrish says he always wanted to come back to meet Fruitt to thank him for the opportunity to be a residence hall counselor. The two planned to meet when Parrish visited campus in 2009, but Fruitt was unfortunately killed in an automobile accident prior to the visit.

“I just wanted to shake his hand and thank him for the opportunity because, a lot of times as an employer, you just terminate someone or deny them the job,” Parrish said. “I just wanted to shake his hand and tell him I felt I had made him proud.”

While preparing for his stay as Executive-in-Residence, Parrish learned that Fruitt’s son, Dave, worked on campus as a maintenance worker for Cary Quad. The two arranged to meet during Parrish’s EiR visit. During the visit, Dave was able to share a couple mementos with Parrish and the two had a lengthy conversation. The meeting, Parrish says, helped bring a sense of closure to the opportunity he had received.

“I felt like I had completed the mission to shake a Fruitt’s hand and say I think you made a good decision,” he said.

Parrish is the owner and CEO of Parrish McDonald’s Restaurants, which operates more than 20 restaurants and generates more the $60 million annually. His company has ranked among Black Enterprise magazine’s top 100 black-owned businesses for 12 straight years.

Parrish reflected that his time as a residence hall counselor was one of the first jobs he had that gave him a taste of real-world experience.

“I had other jobs but this was one where I was actually responsible for a group of young men and so that was kind of my first opportunity for that real-world experience,” said Parrish. “A lot of things can happen over two semesters with young men.”

In addition to his continued involvement with University Residences, Parrish remains connected to his alma mater through the athletic department, Krannert School of Business and the Black Cultural Center. Parrish is the namesake of the Roland G. Parrish Library of Management and Economics, which was the subject of a $4.2 million renovation completed in 2012.


          Mary Jo Zeiser - Bill Berner Award Winner

Mary Jo Zeiser (left) with Donald Heirman during the presentation of the Bill Berner Award. 

Employee Profile

Zeiser Recognized with Staff Achievement Award

Mary Jo Zeiser, manager of student success for Dining & Culinary, was awarded the Bill Berner Staff Achievement Award for 2019.

The award annually recognizes an administrator whose mentorship and personal attention to students and staff reflects that of Bill Berner, a long-time University Residences employee who made a significant impact with his individual attention to students during his tenure. Students and staff collaborate to nominate outstanding employees for the award.  Zeiser was recognized for her significant contributions to positive student employment experiences in Dining & Culinary.

“Mary Jo is actively involved with her student employers,” wrote Emily Mosier, a student nominator. “She makes a great effort to get to know her students, even asking about their weekend plans and events. She has also helped me become more sociable by working hiring tables and employee events. Now, I am much more comfortable talking to people and better at giving as much information as possible. Mary Jo has created an environment that challenges me to come up with creative solutions. Her feedback and guidance directly led to an improvement of my communication and presentation skills.”

Zeiser was presented with the award at a reception including student nominators, award nominees and University Residences and Dining & Culinary staff. She was one of six finalists for the award.

“I always liked working as a student,” said Zeiser. “I was a student here. I lived in Harrison, was vice president of the club and was the head waiter, so I always just liked working with students. As I have moved through Dining, I feel like the role that I’m in presently is the role that fits me best. In dealing with students, I like to see them learn and grow.”

Bill C. Berner, for whom the award is named, began his Purdue career in 1955 as manager of X Hall, later known as Meredith. He later served as the first manager of H-1 (Owen Hall) and H-3 (Wiley). In 1969, he was named the associate director of residence halls.

The Bill Berner Award is presented through the continued support of Donald L. Heirman, who created the award to honor the mentorship and personal attention he received from Berner, as well as in honor of the memory of his own wife, Lois. It was Berner who encouraged Donald to get to know Lois, then Berner’s administrative assistant in Wiley. Donald and Lois were married in 1963 and were married for 45 years before Lois’ death.

Donald Heirman Navy Commission at Wiley

Donald Heirman in front of Wiley Hall with his mother and Lois after being commissioned into the US Navy. 

Heirman says his experiences in Wiley hold a special place for him. He was a four-year member and one of the founding members of Excalibur Club. Upon graduating, he was commissioned into the US Navy and served for 21 years, rising to the rank of commander. His Wiley experience, influenced largely by Berner, made an impression on him and provided the inspiration for his desire to honor individuals who make an impact on campus.

“His goal and philosophy was that everyone is an educator first, not an employee, and he was really good at that,” said Heirman. “When I would wake up and go get food, he was there. At nine o’clock, 10 o’clock at night, he was there. He was dedicated to it.”

Bill Berner Staff Achievement Award finalists also included Jen Bannon, associate director of Residential Life; Tasha Bannon, graphic designer for Student Life Marketing; Michael Beach, manager of Boiler TV; Brian Kocher, residential advocacy and conduct coordinator; and Randi Purvis, manager of guest relations at the UR Alumni and Guest Center.


        Purdue Day of Giving Pets

Purdue Day of Giving offers opportunities to show off your Purdue pride, including sharing pictures of your pets decked out in Purdue gear. 

Upcoming Event Profile

Day of Giving an Opportunity to show your Purdue Pride

Save the date! Purdue Day of Giving will be held Wednesday, April 29, 2020. This year’s theme is “Meet the Challenge.”

Purdue Day of Giving offers you the opportunity to support the programs that helped make your University Residences experience. Donations can be directed towards leadership programs, halls, hall clubs, awards benefiting financial assistance for resident assistants or any other area a donor wishes. This is a chance for you to make a lasting impact on students through University Residences.

This day is not just about fundraising – it’s also an opportunity to show your Purdue pride by participating in social media challenges! Past challenges have included sharing photos of your pets or children in Purdue gear, a creative Purdue selfie and videos of you and your friends singing “Hail Purdue.” These challenges can help University Residences win bonus funds and give you bragging rights from having the most spirited Purdue post.

Stay tuned for more information on ways you can impact students and show your Purdue pride on Day of Giving.

Writer: Matt Vader | Editors: Tammy Loew, Renee Kashawlic, Danielle Fawbush

Editorial Board: Barb Frazee, Tammy Loew, Renee Kashawlic | Inquiries Contact:

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