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Simpkins Speaker Series: Harris Rosen

Harris RosenIconic hotelier and philanthropist Harris Rosen shared his story of success on November 17, 2021 as the most recent speaker presented by the Eastern Florida State College Simpkins Speaker Series and the Daytona State College L. Gale Lemerand Entrepreneurial Speaker Series. Read Mr. Rosen's biography.

The online event included the presentation of two Bernie W. Simpkins Scholarships to EFSC students Daniel Steffano and Onaiza Anjum. Read more about the event.

The Simpkins Speaker Series is named after Bernard Simpkins, a highly successful entrepreneur and Brevard County business leader who established the sessions that have brought some of the nation’s top business innovators to EFSC.

All presentations are free and open to the public. The series also includes the presentation of the Bernie W. Simpkins Scholarship to EFSC students with an entrepreneurial focus. For questions about the series and Simpkins scholarship, call 321-433-7055. 


Read Harris Rosen's Biography

A true All-American success story, iconic hotelier and philanthropist Harris Rosen overcame humble beginnings growing up in the disadvantaged Bowery section of New York City to now owning seven expansive Orlando hotels that comprise approximately 5% of the tourism area’s total guestrooms—all with no debt.

How did he achieve this? Through being the first in his family to graduate college (Cornell School of Hotel Administration), engaging the K.I.S.S. method he learned as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, applying a lot of elbow grease mixed with creativity, and most importantly, through caring for others.

A vivid storyteller, our engaging speaker Harris Rosen will share:

  • How hitchhiking his way to the Northeast kept his first Orlando hotel purchased in 1974 afloat,
  • Why he feels that his company enjoys one of the lowest employee turnover rates in the hospitality industry (Rosen’s is around 12% compared to the industry average hovering at 70%), and
  • Closest to his heart, his desire to inspire others to give back through his legacy of philanthropy, which includes a focus on education.

At the foot of Rosen Shingle Creek, you will see the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida, funded by Rosen. Having opened in 2004, the Rosen College was noted as one of the fastest-growing colleges in the nation and continues to rank among the best hospitality schools in the world. Rosen provides free college for his associates and their dependents (after several years of full-time employment) and has turned around a nearby neighborhood, the underserved community of Tangelo Park, through an on-going promise he made 30 years ago to provide each youth graduating high school a free college or vocational school education (including tuition, books, and room and board). Rosen’s goal is to change American one community at a time through what is called the Tangelo Park Program.

The American dream is alive and well in Orlando. Please join us to be inspired by the truly unique Harris Rosen.

Learn More About the Simpkins Speaker Series

The Simpkins Speaker Series was endowed by Entrepreneur Bernard W. Simpkins to teach the fundamentals and success of entrepreneurship. The free one-hour seminars, held on the campuses of Eastern Florida State College or online, bring entrepreneurs to Brevard County to speak about their challenges and triumphs along their journey to economic success through innovative ideas. They also offer insight into today’s economic trends.

Since its inception, the lectures, which are held each spring and fall, have become a popular event for faculty, students, and business owners in Brevard County and surrounding areas. The seminars allow entrepreneurs to share how they started, what prompted them to become an entrepreneur, the characteristics and traits of an entrepreneur, and important decisions that enable entrepreneurs to have success.

Mr. Simpkins was an entrepreneur who worked in the petroleum business with convenience stores and owned a Toyota automobile dealership, a Goodyear tire distributorship, and a Thrifty franchise car rental. Until his death in October 2020, Mr. Simpkins owned S & S Enterprises, Inc., based in Cocoa, Florida.

Bernie Simpkins once said, “Entrepreneurship is an open road to success for those who chose to invest hard work and determination. Saving what you earn to establish a beginning is a key to success."

His life embodied that philosophy, and Mr. Simpkins' generosity to Eastern Florida State College throughout his life is greatly appreciated.

In March 2000, Mr. Simpkins donated $250,000 to the college to establish an endowment known as the Business Seminar for Entrepreneurial Development. In 2007, Mr. Simpkins became the college’s first $1 million donor for the development of an entrepreneurial curriculum program.

Past Speakers

The Simpkins Speaker Series has included a who's who of the business world, beginning with Chick-Fil-A founder Truett Cathy when the series began in November 2001.

Here's the list of those who've shared their wisdom through the series, beginning with the most recent speakers. When available, the speaker's name is linked to a news story about the event.

Harris Rosen, President & COO of Rosen Hotels & Resorts

Daymond John, Founder/CEO of FUBU, Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship, Star of ABC's Shark Tank and CEO of The Shark Group.

Hyatt Brown, Chairman, Brown & Brown, Inc.

Suneera Madhani, Founder, Stax by Fattmerchant

Charles Clark, Motivational Speaker & World-Class Athlete

Albert Manero, Co-Founder & President, Limbitless Solutions

Wes Henderson, Co-Founder & Chief Innovation Officer, Angel’s Envy

Dr. Delicia Haynes, Founder & CEO, Family First Health Center

Chris and Elaine Larsen, Founders, Larsen Motorsports, Inc.

Chris Gilpin, Founder & CEO, SignalVault

Brant Menswar, Leadership Speaker, Author, Performance Coach

Jim Stovall, Motivational Speaker, Author, Movie Producer

Danny McKnight, U.S. Army (Ret.), Decorated Army Range

F. Scott Moody, Co-founder & CEO, K4Connect

Mike Curb, Former Lieutenant Governor of California

Joseph Duda, Former CEO & President, DUDA Corp

David W. Anderson, Founder, Famous Dave's of America

Carol Craig, Founder & CEO, Craig Technologies

Andy Smith, Founder & President, Houlihan Capital

Heidi Ganahl, Founder, Camp Bow Wow

Cameron Johnson, Author You Call the Shots

Warren Brown, Founder, Cake Love

Jeffrey C. Piersall, President & Co-Founder, Space Coast Magazine

John L. Herman Jr., Author The Innkeeper TalesHermanisms

Mary E. Davis, Author The Entrepreneurial Mom

Don Shula, Miami Dolphins Coach & Founder, Don Shula Steakhouse

Gale Lemerand, Founder, Gale Industries

Pat Williams, Senior Vice President, Orlando Magic

Cynthia Kersey, President, Unstoppable Enterprises

Wally Amos, Founder, Famous Amos Cookies

Toni Jennings, Former Florida Lieutenant Governor

Joe R. Lee, Former Chairman of the Board, Darden Restaurants

Charles Clemente, CEO, Redgate/America Online

Al Neuharth, Founder, USA Today

Steadman Graham, Chairman & CEO, S. Grahamn & Associates

Howard Bo Callaway, Founder, Callaway Gardens

Truett Cathy, Founder & CEO, Chick-Fil-A

Speaker Series Founder

Bernie Simpkins, Entrepreneur

Bernie SimpkinsThe Simpkins Speaker Series was endowed by Bernie Simpkins to highlight the fundamentals and successes of entrepreneurship. Our condolences to the family and friends of series founder Bernie Simpkins, who passed away on October 16, 2020.

Harris Rosen event sponsored by:

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