Palm Beach Atlantic honored franchising titan Ray Titus with its American Free Enterprise Medal during a ceremony Tuesday, a nod to the United Franchise Group empire he’s built on a foundation of family and faith.
Among his advice to students: “Be the hardest worker every day,” don’t be afraid to ask questions, pray during tough times and thank God in the good times.
Titus received his medal on the 35th anniversary of the American Free Enterprise Day tradition, having previously received the American Free Enterprise Companion Medal in 2008. He was joined by 2021 companion medalists Kathy Leonard, director of retail pharmacy operations for Publix Pharmacy, and Michael Vecellio, vice president and co-owner of the Vecellio Group, Inc. Vecellio’s father, Leo A. Vecellio, was the American Free Enterprise Medalist in 2015.
Titus’ medal was bestowed on him by Cognosante founder and CEO Y. Michele Kang, 2019 American Free Enterprise Medalist. Titus said the award prompted him to reflect on the lessons learned since he started Signarama at the age of 23.
“Find your purpose, and it doesn’t exclude profit always,” Titus said. “Purpose and profit are not binary. They can go hand and hand.”
Turning to Umberto Rosi, a student to whom he presented the JJ Prendamano Endowed Scholarship and who started The Give Back Community for the betterment of homeless people, he said, “They can go hand in hand, Umberto. You can do it. You can help the homeless here in West Palm Beach, and you can still make money to live.”
Human flourishing and the alleviation of suffering are enabled by the American free enterprise system, Marshall E. Rinker Sr. School of Business Dean Dr. Brian Strow said in his introductory remarks.
In the beginning of creation, God placed man in the garden to tend it: “He’s given each and every one of you talent to tend His garden,” Strow told the crowd of several hundred students, business leaders, staff and faculty members.
Titus’ talent for entrepreneurship began to shine in eighth grade when he wrote a paper on “how to start a franchise.” He credits his father, Roy, who founded Minuteman Press, for imparting his business acumen.
Ray Titus founded the first Signarama store in 1986 and applied his successful business model to other brands, which include Fully Promoted, Transworld Business Advisors, Venture X, Network Lead Exchange and Resource Operations International. United Franchise Group added a food division featuring Jon Smith Subs, The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill and Graze Craze. Today, UFG has more than 1,600 franchises in 80 countries and yet remains a family business.
Titus and his family made a significant gift to the University to establish the Titus Center for Franchising and an endowed scholarship for select Rinker Sr. School of Business students seeking a career in franchising. At the conclusion of Tuesday’s medal ceremony, he announced that the family made another commitment to the University for a franchising museum in honor of Titus Center for Franchising Director Dr. John P. Hayes.
“His friendship and hard work make the Titus Center what it is today,” Titus said.
After the ceremony, American Free Enterprise Day companion medalists Geoff Seiber (2019) and Rob Morris (2016) joined Titus to present “Everything I Needed to Learn About Business I Learned in a Franchise.” Morris, who owns multiple Chick-fil-A franchises, has employed more than 1,000 PBA students. Seventeen graduates of Morris’ leadership program have become Chick-fil-A operators, Hayes said. Seiber is CEO of FranFund, and he and his wife sponsored an endowed scholarship in the family’s name.
During the more relaxed afternoon Q & A, Hayes asked Titus if there was ever a time when he had nearly given up on God.
Titus told about when his mother was in hospice care, his business was floundering and the assistant who was helping him coach junior varsity sports at The King’s Academy quit, leaving him solo. A student-athlete saw Titus in the parking lot and asked him if he was OK.
Titus was at his breaking point. The player offered to pray for him.
“He prayed a prayer over me and for me, and I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life,” Titus said.
The following American Free Enterprise scholarship recipients were recognized during the ceremony:
JJ Prendamano Endowed Scholarship – Umberto Rosi, a junior from Rome, Italy, studying management
Col. Marty Trauger Scholarship – Fabrizio Parraga, a sophomore from Coral Springs, Florida, studying international business
James and Annie Erneston Scholarship – Clayton Hider, a junior from Wellington, Florida, studying marketing
Melina Willson, a senior from West Palm Beach studying finance;
Florida Southern Self-Storage Scholarship – Richard Daronco, a junior from Wellington, Florida, studying management
Vecellio Scholarship – Kyla Gates, a junior from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, studying psychology;
Savana Beckett, a senior from Clewiston, Florida, studying forensic science;
Mikayla Golden, a senior from Suwanee, Georgia, studying exercise science;
Elizabeth Karpov, a freshman from Winter Garden, Florida, studying dance;
Lindsay Richardson, a sophomore from Lake Worth, Florida, studying communication;
Emily Roberts, a sophomore from Wakefield, Massachusetts, studying elementary education;
Rachel Sparks, a sophomore from Margate, Florida, studying cinema arts.
Previous medal recipients include Y. Michele Kang, founder and CEO of Cognosante, 2019; George T. Elmore, president of Hardrives, Inc., 2018; David C. Novak, co-founder, retired chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands Inc., 2017; Kenneth Langone, founder of Invemed Associates and co-founder of The Home Depot, 2016; Leo A. Vecellio, Jr., chairman, president and CEO of Vecellio Group, Inc., 2015; Arthur L. Williams, Jr., A.L. Williams & Associates, 2014; Tim Gannon, a co-founder of Outback Steakhouse, Inc., 2013; Brian P. Burns, BF Enterprises Inc., 2012; H. Wayne Huizenga, Jr., Huizenga Holdings, Inc., 2011; Edward M. Kobel, DeBartolo Development, LLC, 2010; John D. MacArthur, insurance and real estate entrepreneur, 2009; John M. Gregory, SJ Strategic Investments, LLC, 2008; Karl H. Watson, CEMEX, 2007; Stuart W. Epperson, Salem Communications Corporation, 2004; Sam Moore, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2003; Joseph R. Gregory, Kingsway LLC, 2002; Lester J. Woerner, Woerner Holdings, Inc, 2001; Rich DeVos, 2000, Orlando Magic; John J. Brogan, 1999; Thomas R. Pledger, Dycom Industries, 1998; Carl DeSantis, Rexall Sundown, Inc., 1997; Lowell “Bud” Paxson, Paxson Communications Corp., 1996; Richard S. Johnson, Johnson Investment Group, 1995; David Mahoney, Charles A. Dana Foundation, 1994; William G. Lassiter, Jr., W.G. Lassiter Co., Inc., 1993; Alexander W. Dreyfoos, Jr., The Dreyfoos Group, 1992; S. Bradford “Skeet” Rymer, Jr., Magic Chef, 1991; S. Truett Cathy, Chick-fil-A, 1990; Stewart Morris, Stewart Information Services Corp. and the Hugh J. Andersen Foundation, 1989; Frederick M. Supper, Alexander Proudfoot Co., 1988; Henry J. Rolfs, Downtown/Uptown West Palm Beach, 1987; Theodore R. Johnson, United Parcel Service, 1986; Marshall E. Rinker, Sr., Rinker Materials Corp., 1985; and Sir John M. Templeton, Templeton World Funds Ltd., 1984.
Photo 1: Previous American Free Enterprise Medalist Y. Michele Kang presents Ray Titus with his medal during a ceremony Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2021 in the Rubin Arena. President Dr. Debra A. Schwinn and Presidential Ambassador Kyle Martin look on.
Photo 2: Presidential Ambassador Kyle Martin, Cognosante founder and CEO Y. Michele Kang, United Franchise Group CEO Ray Titus and PBA President Dr. Debra A. Schwinn pose for a photo at the American Free Enterprise Day medal ceremony. Kang was the 2019 American Free Enterprise Day Medalist.