Tom McDonnell III has reached lofty heights as a business executive, but the Hattiesburg native never forgot his alma mater while making the climb.
For his unwavering vocal and financial support, McDonnell’s has been named the Boardman Distinguished Alumnus of the Year by The University of Southern Mississippi’s College of Business. McDonnell was nominated by his peers on the university’s Business Advisory Council.
“I am extremely humbled by this award and feel privileged to be following in the footsteps of some outstanding business leaders who came before me,” said McDonnell. “There are many people who have graduated from this fine university who have gone on to lead extraordinary lives and they don’t always get a lot of recognition. I am sure there are many others a lot more deserving than me.”
McDonnell, who makes his home in Madison, Miss., is currently a member of the Southern Miss Foundation and past chairman of the Business Advisory Council. A Certified Public Accountant, McDonnell holds a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Southern Miss.
“Tom has been such a vocal proponent of the university and the College of Business in particular,” said Dr. Lance Nail, dean of the College of Business at Southern Miss. “He’s been right with us when times were not so great and now as we have a new excitement and enthusiasm he’s like our head cheerleader for the college.”
McDonnell’s business ventures are almost too widespread and diverse to include in one portfolio. He is Co-Chairman and Co-CEO and Director of Franchise Services of North America Inc (FSNA), a publicly traded holding company on the Canadian Stock Exchange. FSNA is the holding company for several different brands operating more than 1,100 stores in many countries.
Those brands include the following:
• Auto Rental Resource Center Inc. -- offers insurance and other services to independently owned auto rental businesses.
• Sonoran National Insurance Company – provides insurance services to franchisees of the U-Save franchise system along with other clients.
• Rent-A-Wreck of Canada Inc. -- offers franchises for vehicle rental businesses in Canada.
• U-Save Auto Rental of America Inc. – an international franchise car rental system with more than 200 locations throughout the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Middle East.
McDonnell is also president of the LeFleur Transportation family of companies that provide non-emergency medical transportation services to government and corporate clients throughout Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma and South Carolina. He is the owner of System7Franchising LLC, a company that assists entrepreneurs in the process of franchising their businesses.
McDonnell is a deacon at Broadmoor Baptist Church where he serves on various committees. He is also founder and president of PIC International, a non-profit company dedicated to the support and training of pastors at the Ukranian seminary in Odessa.
“Anything I’ve achieved I owe to my strong faith as a Christian,” said McDonnell. “I believe that’s the single biggest reason for any success I’ve had over the years.”
McDonnell has also taken an active role in the new College of Business Honors House, a living-learning community which opened this fall for business students. He is participating in the student/mentor program introduced as part of the curriculum for those residing in the Honors House.
Shannon Woodward, director of development in the Office of Advancement at Southern Miss, said McDonnell’s generosity and commitment to the university cannot be overstated.
“A part of being named a distinguished alumnus is the role that the individual plays in giving back to the university,” said Woodward. “Tom McDonnell has made the ultimate gift by giving his time, resources and financial support. He has gone so far as to open up his home to students from Jackson to share his Southern Miss experiences in a recruiting effort. He is truly deserving of this honor.”
Jackson area businessman Tom McDonnell III was recognized as Boardman Distinguished Alumnus of the Year by The University of Southern Mississippi College of Business at a luncheon Friday, Oct. 16. McDonnell is a Hattiesburg native. (University of Southern Mississippi photo by Danny Rawls)
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.