Harris Rosen: 45 Years of Giving and Serving Our Community

“Word hard. Enjoy what you’re doing. Be kind and respectful. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Be honest. Always try to do the right thing.”- Harris Rosen. 

This business advice from Harris Rosen echoes the principles that he founded his business on when he purchased his first hotel, a 256-room Quality Inn on International Drive, in the mid-70s. Now, 45 years later, he has built an entire brand of hotels that have become a home away from home for Orlando visitors year after year.

Additionally, his neighbors in the community benefit from his generous outreach initiatives through the Harris Rosen Foundation. It was founded nearly three decades ago because he was so grateful for his success.

“I wanted to thank God in some way, and I thought the appropriate way was to offer a helping hand to those in need,” he says.

When the foundation feels they have found an initiative that has merit, they do what they can to help. From the Tangelo Park and Parramore education programs here at home to international efforts to assist those in need in Haiti and beyond, the foundation continues to pay it forward.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” he says. “It’s not anything terribly complicated. People who are blessed should acknowledge their good fortune and give back. So that’s what we do.”

All of us at Central Florida Lifestyle Magazine are inspired by Harris Rosen’s work ethic and heart for philanthropy. We join the community in congratulating him as we take a look back at the past 45 years.

Rosen YMCA Aquatic Center

Harris Rosen has had a long history with the YMCA Aquatic Center. More than 25 years ago, he turned activist for the facility, then called Justus Aquatic Center, when it was shut down by the mortgage holder.

An avid swimmer, Rosen saw the importance of the facility and called upon celebrities, organizations and Orange County leaders to help save the swim center from demolition. Under his leadership and with the help of the community, the facility was re-opened and gifted to the YMCA of Central Florida. It was renamed in his honor in 2018.

The Rosen YMCA Aquatic Center is a state-of-the-art facility, featuring two Olympic-size swimming pools and new diving platforms, and has hosted many events. However, the biggest impact to the community rests in the lives of hundreds of children who have learned how to swim there. Rosen’s devotion to the community can be seen all through Central Florida, and if you get lucky you may catch him in action at the center having a swim in the clear blue water.

Runway to Hope

Rosen Hotels & Resorts has been an event sponsor for Runway to Hope’s annual Spring Soiree for six years, hosting families with children fighting cancer and their supporters for a glamorous fashion show at Rosen Shingle Creek. This magical night allows the children to forget about their treatments and their pain for a short time as they strut down the runway with national celebrities and local leaders.

A special partnership was formed for this year’s event on May 18. The Adam Michael Rosen Foundation, which was formed to honor the life and legacy of Trisha and Harris Rosen’s son who passed away from brain cancer in November, teamed up with Runway to Hope to be the presenting sponsor. The event was renamed The Adam Michael Rosen Foundation presents Runway to Hope’s Spring Soiree.

A record-breaking $1.5 million was raised at this year’s event. Those dollars will help fund programs in all three children’s pediatric oncology programs in Central Florida and will directly benefit children through Runway to Hope’s Family Assistance Program.

How the JCC Came to Be

Since 1973, the goal of the Roth Family Jewish Community Center in Maitland has been to build community, strengthen family life and promote Jewish values through a variety of family friendly programs. With the support of Harris Rosen, who has been a champion of the organization for decades, an expansion into southwest Orlando was made possible in 2009. The Jack & Lee Rosen Jewish Community Center on Apopka-Vineland Road was named for his parents, and Rosen’s initial gift of $3.5 million to launch the construction of the center was the largest single gift in the Jewish Federation of Orlando history.

On a typical day, the Rosen JCC greets hundreds of adults utilizing our fitness programs and 250 children from as young as 8 weeks old to Pre-K. Parents drop off their children and go off to work, knowing that their children are safe, loved and cared for. Parents can utilize a state-of-the-art communication app for instant updates and changes in the school day as well as to communicate with the JCC staff about how their day has changed, impacting pick-up. Our diverse family community affirms our core values of diversity, inclusion, mutual respect and the responsibility to give back to the community. The program offerings for the Rosen JCC membership provide tools for each stage in the family life cycle, to adapt to the challenges of balancing work and family, raising healthy children and leading a fulfilling life of meaning and purpose. – Dr. Reuben Romirowsky, CEO of the Rosen JCC

Originally a satellite office of the Maitland center, the Rosen JCC has been operating independently since 2015, though its roots are in the Roth JCC. Harris Rosen continues to be deeply engaged in the operations of the Rosen JCC, meeting with its leaders monthly, visiting the facility to observe the programs and acting as an ambassador to raise the center’s visibility within the community it serves.

Rosen College of Hospitality Management

The University of Central Florida’s hospitality program was established within the College of Business in 1983, but school officials and local hospitality leaders knew it could be even bigger. In 2000, Harris Rosen donated the initial $18 million in funds and land for the new campus to be built on. At the time it was the largest donation that the university had ever received.

The state matched it in grant money and other hospitality companies followed suit with donations of their own shortly after. The Rosen College of Hospitality Management, a Mediterranean-inspired, resort-style facility, opened on Universal Boulevard in January 2004 with more than 1,000 students, 20 full-time faculty and dozens of staff members.

Now, the Rosen College has more than 3,000 undergraduate students, 260 graduate students and 70 faculty members from 17 countries. It is ranked No. 2 among the top hospitality management programs worldwide.

Orange County Public Schools

Educational support has been a philanthropic focus for Harris Rosen for more than 25 years. His most recent endeavor has been in Parramore, where he is replicating his Tangelo Park program offering free college scholarships and free preschool to the community’s youth.

The Rosen Preschool is part of the OCPS Academic Center of Excellence, which opened in 2017. The preschool provides 24 classrooms of educational curriculum, breakfast, lunch and snacks for children ages 2 to 4. The Harris Rosen Foundation also provides funding for the salaries of 76 teachers and an on-site director. Additionally, every student who lives in Parramore and graduates from one of the community’s feeder high schools will receive a scholarship to attend a two or four-year public college or university or technical/vocational school in Florida as well as a new opportunity to attend Rollins College. The full scholarships include tuition, books, and room and board.

This is the second community to be adopted by the hotelier. In 1993,
Rosen successfully initiated a similar program in Orlando’s Tangelo Park neighborhood, where graduation rates have soared from 55 percent to nearly 100 percent.

Miss America’s Outstanding Teen

In 2005, a conversation began about developing a competition that would award scholarships to philanthropic and academic-focused young women from across the country, ages 13 to 18. This idea became a reality when the very first Miss America’s Outstanding Teen competition was held in Orlando.

At the beginning, Chairman of the Board Donna Bozarth says she wondered where she would house and feed 51 girls and their parents during the competition and what venue would be large enough to produce an event at that scale. So she cold called her neighbor, Harris Rosen, and shared the idea. He offered hotel rooms and food, a donation to the scholarship fund and a call into the Orange County Convention Center to see if it would be a fit.

During the week-long event, Rosen Centre is home to the competitors and their families. Bozarth says the staff is so familiar with the event that they often check in with her if they notice anything she needs is missing.

“I think the reason he was so supportive and has been so supportive over the years is that we stand for the same things he stands for,” Bozarth says. “He saw that in us from the beginning.”

Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Florida

When the team at Karst Media Group was planning for Camp Holiday Cheer, the annual Christmas party for Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Florida foster families, community support was key. From the activities and entertainment down to the food and drinks, donations from local businesses helped to pull the whole event together.

On Dec. 6, 2018, foster families of all sizes came together to share in a special evening where they could bond with each other over a gourmet meal provided by Rosen Shingle Creek. Not only was a hearty pasta dish served alongside salad and breadsticks, but the hotel also provided utensils and napkins rolled together just as you would find them at the restaurants at Rosen Hotels & Resorts.

Breaking bread in this way was the perfect beginning to a celebration that meant so much to the foster parents who provide love and safe homes as well as the children who were participating in activities like decorating cookies and making s’mores for the first time.

Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando

The mission of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando is to nurture a unified Jewish community that transcends generations and neighborhoods. This is done by providing support through JFGO programming as well as contributions to other Jewish causes and organizations, helping to build meaningful relationships that are rooted in Jewish values, offering a range of educational opportunities for individuals of all ages and advocating for the Jewish community.

Harris Rosen has been someone that Orlando’s Jewish community could count on through the years. In addition to providing one of the largest single gifts to jumpstart construction on The Jack & Lee Rosen Jewish Community Center, he has also provided generous support to the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando.

In 2016, JFGO launched the Jewish Capital Alliance for Campus 2020, a campaign to retire a decades-old debt of more than $5 million by Jan. 1, 2020. A $1 million contribution in matching gifts from the Harris Rosen Foundation helped to put the Federation on track to being debt-free for the first time in a generation. They expect to be completely debt free later this year.

Rosen Properties Fun Facts

• Harris Rosen’s office is the same one he had 45 years ago in the Rosen Inn International, where he lived for the first 15 years he was in business
• There are 6,694 guestrooms and suites across 8 Rosen Hotels & Resorts properties
• Rosen Hotels & Resorts employs 4,400 individuals
• The turnover rate is in the low teens, compared to a hospitality industry average of around 50% to 60%
• All Rosen properties offer distress rates and pet-friendly rooms during hurricane evacuations

A Timeline of the Rosen Legacy

June 24, 1974: Harris Rosen purchases his first hotel, the Quality Inn International, now known as the Rosen Inn International. His early method of attracting guests was hitchhiking to the Northeast, visiting one motor coach company after another and asking them to name their price. He came home with contracts for guestroom rates as low as $7 a night. This commitment to occupancy instead of average rate has become a tradition.

June 24, 1975: Harris Rosen purchases the International Inn, now known as the Rosen Inn.

February 1, 1984: The Quality Inn Plaza, now known as Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando, was Rosen Hotels & Resorts®’ first hotel planned from blueprint to full construction.

May 15, 1987: Comfort Inn Lake Buena Vista, now known as Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista, opens with 320 guestrooms and quickly doubles its size to 640 guestrooms.

September 13, 1991: Clarion Plaza, now known as Rosen Plaza®, was Rosen Hotels & Resorts®’ first full-service convention hotel.

1993: The Tangelo Park Pilot Program launches, guaranteeing every child in Tangelo Park an education from preschool through college.

October 31, 1995: Rosen Hotels & Resorts® opens its second full-service convention hotel, Omni Rosen, now known as the Rosen Centre® Hotel.

2004: University of Central Florida Rosen College of Hospitality Management opens.

May 24, 2005: U.S. Dream Academy in Washington, D.C. honors Harris Rosen with the President’s Award for the Tangelo Park Pilot Program.

September 9, 2006: Rosen Shingle Creek® opens with 1,501 guestrooms and suites and over 462,000 sq. ft. of ballroom and meeting facilities.

April 18, 2009: Harris Rosen is inducted into the Central Florida Hospitality Hall of Fame.

August 5, 2009: The Jack & Lee Rosen Jewish Community Center opens.

March 5, 2011: Harris Rosen hosts the American Cancer Society’s Cattle Barron’s Ball after the event had been on hiatus for years. It has been at Rosen Shingle Creek® ever since.

March 11, 2013: Harris Rosen donates $1 million to Give the Kids the World.

August 21, 2017: First day of school at the Rosen Preschool, which serves children ages 2 to 4 years old who live in the Parramore neighborhood.

July 24, 2018: The YMCA Aquatic Center honors Harris Rosen for his support of the facility by renaming it the Rosen YMCA Aquatic Center.

Generosity, compassion and a commitment to the community defines the spirit of Harris Rosen and the vision of his brand. Congratulations on 45 years!


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Written by Lyndsay Fogarty

Lyndsay Fogarty has had many roles at Central Florida Lifestyle, working her way from intern to contributing writer to managing editor. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida’s Nicholson School of Communication where she earned her degree in journalism. Along the way, she has learned that teamwork and dedication to your craft will get you far, and a positive outlook on the present will get you even farther.

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