Michael Parmerlee BS’06 grew up with The University of Texas at Dallas seemingly in his backyard. But even with his exposure to the University, he was still surprised by his college experience when he became a Comet in the fall of 2002.
“Growing up in Richardson, you hear about UT Dallas, but I don’t think you realize how big of a deal it is to have something like that in our area,” Parmerlee said. “Being a student opened my eyes to a lot of experiences that I didn’t necessarily think I’d get involved in.”
For Parmerlee, those experiences included being a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, on the Student Fee Advisory Committee, an orientation team mentor and president of the Interfraternity Council, to name a few.
“I met a lot of lifelong friends who I still spend a lot of time with,” Parmerlee said. “UTD focuses so much on not just academics, but also on developing student life. It made a big impact on me.”
As an economics and politics major, Parmerlee enjoyed the duality of his studies, which allowed him to navigate a wider range of subject matters and courses throughout his four years on campus. When he graduated in 2006, he took his interests to the Texas Capitol in Austin, where he worked as a legislative aide to Rep. Fred Hill. It was during that year that Parmerlee found his affinity for the law.
“I enjoyed meeting all of the politicians and lawyers around the capital, and really took to the legal aspect of my work,” Parmerlee said.
This experience inspired Parmerlee to apply to The University of Texas School of Law.
“I liked the way law school taught me to think, looking at different issues and trying to imagine all of the different scenarios,” Parmerlee said. “You’re able to help client or companies you work for solve problems by using the law.”
Following law school, Parmerlee moved back to Dallas in 2011 and began his legal career as an associate at Franklin Skierski Lovall Hayward LLP, where he worked on commercial bankruptcy and debtor work for small companies. But after four years on the job, Parmerlee’s family business came calling.
“My dad came to me and said, ‘We need more legal support,’ and asked if I wanted to step in,” Parmerlee said. “I always wanted to learn more about the business, so I decided to join the company.”
That company is Golden Tree Restaurants, which owns Richardson-based Golden Chick, as well as Fireside Pies, Heff’s Burgers, Jalapeno Tree, Texadelphia, JC’s Burger House, JC’s Burger Bar, and, most recently, Lola’s Handcrafted Sandwiches and Happy Taco Bar. As associate general counsel for the parent company, Parmerlee reviews corporate contracts and oversees the legal aspects of real estate and finance work.
For the past four years, Parmerlee has utilized the skills he learned while studying economics and finance at UT Dallas in his role with Golden Tree Restaurants.
“Any number of legal issues can pop up on a day-to-day basis,” Parmerlee said. “With a brand like Golden Tree, you’ve got various departments and restaurant concepts that need your attention, and you have to balance that work and give everything enough attention so that you’re not neglecting anything.”
Since Golden Chick, once Golden Fried Chicken, was resurrected by Parmerlee’s father and his partners in 1989, it has evolved into a multi-faceted brand with 182 locations across the country. The menu ranges from traditional fried chicken to catfish and chicken salad (Parmerlee’s personal favorite) and yeast rolls.
“Our culture really focuses on people and helping them become their best selves and become successful,” Parmerlee said. “We have a lot of people who have been franchisees for 20 to 25 years, and now their kids are starting to get involved. It’s a really good company that is focused on giving back and building a strong community network.”
Building a strong community network is also a mission in Parmerlee’s personal life. He is a mentor to participants of Leadership Richardson, a program that strives to grow leaders and solve issues in communities and workplaces. Parmerlee also serves as a chapter advisor for Sigma Alpha Epsilon at UT Dallas.
“UT Dallas showed me that life is more than just going to school and going to work,” Parmerlee said. “You have to be involved in things outside of that that help the community and help others.”