If you’re in Orlando and have driven down International Drive (I-Drive), or even just on I-4 between exits 72 (to Rt 528 East) and 74A (Sand Lake Rd.), you’ve seen at least some of them:
- Rosen Centre Hotel
- Rosen Inn
- Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando
- Rosen Inn International
- Rosen Plaza Hotel
- Rosen Shingle Creek Resort
- Midpointe Hotel by Rosen Hotels & Resorts
Oh, and there are two Clarion hotels (Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista and Clarion Inn & Suites) that are owned by Rosen. So that makes nine. AND, not a hotel, but there’s also the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management (sooo…Rosen can teach people how to work at places that are potentially owned by…Rosen?).
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has ever wondered who this Rosen person is. So I went and found out.
Harris Rosen was born in New York City in 1939. He earned a B.S. degree from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and his first professional job, as a convention salesman, was at the Waldorf=Astoria in NYC (we stayed there on points in early 2017, just before they closed for a 3-to-5-year renovation). So yeah, quite the place to start a career ;-).
During the planning and early days of Walt Disney World, Rosen worked for the Walt Disney Company as Director of Hotel Planning, but he left Disney in 1973 and bought his first hotel, a Quality Inn on I-Drive (it’s now the Rosen Inn International). He had some unusual-but-smart marketing skills that included hitchhiking to New England to meet with several motor coach companies so he could gain their business when they were in central Florida. And through the years he began to amass hotel after hotel, and later on, a handful of resorts, too.
You might think, “Ah, OK, so he’s just some rich guy. A 1%er who owns a lot of hotels,” right?
Well, yes. But there’s a whole lot more to the story…
Once on super solid ground financially, Rosen began on the road to philanthropy in 1993, when he created the Tangelo Park Program. Tangelo Park is a very poor neighborhood in Orlando, a little east of International Drive. The program includes a promise of a college scholarship (including room, board, books and tuition) for members of the community who are accepted to a vocational school, college or university in the state of Florida. As of 2016, more than 200 college degrees have been awarded through this program, which also includes a parent resource center and ten neighborhood preschools. Rosen also funds an alternative spring break program for about a dozen students from his alma mater, Cornell, who want to spend their vacation in Orlando. They stay in one of his hotels and mentor students who live in Tangelo Park.
In 2016, Rosen began a program similar to the one at Tangelo Park, but five times larger, that benefits the Parramore area (that’s also a very impoverished neighborhood, near Downtown Orlando). Rosen has also funded the building, maintenance and teacher/aide/director salary of a 24-room preschool in Parramore, which opened in the summer of 2017.
During Hurricane Irma in 2017, Rosen lowered the prices of his hotels to make them more affordable to those fleeing from the Category 5 storm. Rooms at their four leisure hotels were offered for $59 a night and they sold rooms at luxury hotels for $79 a night. When asked about the low prices, he said he, “…felt it was the right thing to do because this is not a time to make money, but a time to help people.”
In November 2017, Rosen announced a partnership with Rollins College (a private, liberal arts college in Winter Park [psst! Mr. Rogers went there!]), to provide three annual scholarships to the school, which will be shared by Tangelo Park and Parramore high school graduates.
In 2002, Rosen donated $18 million to the University of Central Florida to develop the Rosen College of Hospitality Management. He funds hundreds of scholarships annually to students attending the Rosen College.
For years, Rosen has funded sending medical supplies and personal hygiene items to Haiti. In 2006, he hosted the Water for Haiti gala at Rosen Plaza, which funded more than 200 water filtration devices. He also financed the rebuilding of more than 100 homes that were damaged by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
In 2016, Rosen was awarded the Bob Graham Center for Public Service Citizen of the Year award for his work with Tangelo Park. He was also named the most influential person in tourism in Orlando by Orlando magazine. In 2017, Rosen was honored by the Orlando Business Journal as the Philanthropist of the Year. In the same year, The International Drive Chamber of Commerce also named an award in Rosen’s name—The Harris Rosen Philanthropy Award. He was the first recipient and it will be awarded each year to those who follow his footstep of passion for philanthropy.
So yeah…the next time you see one of Rosen’s hotels, you’ll have a better idea of who this Rosen dude is. One helluva guy, huh?
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary