Harris Rosen was born and raised in a gritty, impoverished neighborhood on the Lower East Side of New York City. Encouraged by his parents to get an education in order to live a better life, he studied hard, swam competitively, and was accepted to Cornell University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in hotel administration in 1961.
Rosen served three years in the U.S. Army as an officer in Germany and South Korea, after which he completed the Advanced Management course at the University of Virginia’s Graduate School of Business. He began his career at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City as a file clerk in Personnel and later became a convention salesman. He worked his way up the Hilton Hotel Corporation ranks, serving in management roles at some of the company’s largest hotels.
Rosen joined the Disney Company in California as Director of Hotel Planning and was heavily involved in the design and development of the Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Village Resort, and the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground that opened at Walt Disney World in 1971. He parted ways with Disney in 1974 and soon bought the 256-room Quality Inn on International Drive. Today, Rosen’s hotel empire spans seven properties totaling more than 6,300 rooms in Orlando.
Harris Rosen’s dedication to help others is evident in the innovative Tangelo Park Project that helps support students in the community and better their lives through education. As part of the program, every two-, three-, and four-year-old receives free preschool; there are parenting classes and vocational or technical training opportunities for parents with children in school; and full tuition, room, board, and living expenses are paid for every Tangelo Park high-school graduate who is accepted by a vocational school, community college, or public university in the state of Florida. Through the years, more than 200 students have received full scholarships and more than 100 have already graduated from college.
In 2002, Rosen donated a 20-acre site and $10 million to the University of Central Florida to build the Rosen School of Hospitality Management. He also donated $3.5 million to build a new Jewish community in southwest Orlando. Most recently, he has committed to replicate the Tangelo Park Project at the new pre-school to eighth-grade school that opens in the Parramore neighborhood in 2017.