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"I got people" is a popular boast of those who drink from the fountain of success.

Well, Roland Parrish already had "people" during his early years at Washington Middle School and Hammond High.

They were no-nonsense teachers, caring and impactful, who were constantly on him like a winter sweater.

Today, Parrish is the president, CEO and owner of Parrish McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd. in the Dallas and Fort Worth area, where he owns 25 stores with sales of more than $60 million annually.

He also the former chairman and CEO of the National Black McDonald's Operators Association with more than $2.7 billion in sales and 1,300 restaurants.

"I'm going to give you some Hammond stuff," Parrish said. "I started having that dream of going to college in the seventh and eighth grade because typically back then, where I grew up in East Hammond, you went into the service or to the steel mill.

"There were exceptions, of course, like Irv Cross going to Northwestern."

Parrish was determined to follow.

That's where his "people" provided a big push.

There was Mike Brandt, who taught history and coached track; Paul Bingamon, who taught science, coached basketball, and could motivate like Vince Lombardi; Jim Renz, who taught social studies and coached basketball and track; homeroom teacher Harry Meck; wrestling coach Karl Deak and basketball coach Leroy Harrell.

And topping that list was Don Clark, who taught advanced math and coached wrestling.

This guy was so tough, according to Parrish, he was once stabbed and robbed, then actually chased down his attacker and held him for the police.

"I began to develop a habit of what I needed to do for college. I started taking notes in class in seventh grade," Parrish said. "I started studying at night instead of watching TV. I developed these fundamentals which I carried all the way through college."

Parrish was an outstanding high school track athlete, winning two sectional and two Gary Regional titles in the 880-yard run capped by a state championship in 1971 with a time of a minute, 53.1 seconds.

He earned a track scholarship to Purdue, where he medaled six times in the Big Ten Conference and was an All-American — his 1:48.3 in the 800 meters the third-fastest time in school history.

But it was the classroom where Roland Parrish was unbeatable.

"I think I have a decent IQ but I know I have a strong work ethic," he said.

That tireless drive and ambition would be severely tested after getting his MBA at Purdue in 1976.

Parrish worked, starting as an intern, for 13 years at Exxon and did stints in the engineering, financial capital budgeting, supply, distribution, and direct retail and innovation departments.

But every new position was a lateral move. Parrish wanted more. He wanted to run his own business, so he applied for a McDonald's franchise, figuring his Purdue degrees would open doors.

It did not.

Parrish received a rejection letter from McDonald's, saying it had a lot of mid-managers. It was a gut punch. He was devastated.

But like a distance runner who sees the finish line off in the distance and is gasping for air, he continued chasing his dream, finally got an interview, and was accepted into McDonald's two-year training program.

It meant working 50 hours a week at Exxon Corp. in Texas and commuting 10 hours a week to train at a Dallas-area McDonald's an additional 25 hours a week — unpaid.

Three years after his initial rejection, Roland Parrish purchased his first McDonald's with $180,000 he had saved while working at Exxon.

"My basic business philosophy is to run lean and mean, keep overhead down and try to build an organization of talented people: identify them, train them, develop them, promote them and then reward them financially,” said Parrish, who recently was honored by the National Department of Commerce as "Minority Businessman of the Year."

At 64, Parrish said he is working on a new set of business goals. Giving back to the community remains a top priority.

Purdue’s Roland G. Parrish Library of Management and Economics is named in honor of Parrish, who provided a $2 million leadership gift to support the $4.2 million renovation project in 2010.

He is also the proud sponsor of "McMiracle on Highway 67” — an annual event held in December that provides fifth-graders in the Dallas area with the gift of a brand new 26-inch bike.

Parrish constructed and established the John H. and Marie Parrish Medical Center in Fort Portal, Uganda, named in honor of his parents. The clinic provides treatment to patients with treatable ailments and cares for orphans whose parents have died due to HIV/AIDS.

Parrish is working with an advertising firm in Uganda to start an international mission campaign to assist the clinic to become fully self-sustaining.

These are all values instilled in him by teachers while growing up in Hammond.

"I can still remember their lectures," said Parrish, who is quick to challenge today's youth.

"Listen to your parents and elders and respect them, including people in the community. And secondly, watch the crowd that you hang out with."

Take it from a man who has good "people" and look where he is today.