ORLANDO- Harris Rosen, Florida’s largest and most controversial independent hotelier, is making good on a pledge he gave to this community two years ago. Rosen is giving the 40,000-student University of Central Florida $10 million in cash and 20 acres to build the Rosen School of Hospitality Management, probably next to his planned 1,500-room resort near the Orange County Convention Center.

Undecided is where Rosen’s newest hotel will be built. However, hospitality consultants familiar with the developer’s plans, tell GlobeSt.com the site will likely be on Universal Orlando land. Rosen is negotiating to buy a portion of the 2,000 acres Universal acquired from Lockheed Martin in 1998. Rosen’s six active hotels in Orlando’s prime tourist corridor comprise 6,000 rooms, all at or near 100% occupancy.

Rosen critics say the hotelier’s plans for a UCF hospitality school is self-serving because he will probably get first choice on selecting and hiring the brightest graduates. “What’s wrong with that?” Rosen tells GlobeSt.com.

Born in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the former Walt Disney Co. executive graduated from Cornell University’s hotel management school. He quit Disney in the early 1970s because he says he didn’t fit in with the theme park’s shirt-and-tie executive crowd. Rosen favors T-shirts and open-necked sports shirts to formal dress apparel. He formerly clerked in the personnel department at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel where his late father, Jack, was director of public safety.

Rosen and his corporation have contributed unpublicized millions to local civic projects in the 26 years the hotelier has been in business here. But the 60-year-old hotelier is not part of the local power establishment and doesn’t aspire to be. His comments on various area-planned public projects often provoke frowns from local political types. “I tell it the way I see it and if they don’t like that, then that’s their problem,” Rosen tells GlobeSt.com.

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