“Hospitality executive Michael D. Rose died of cancer Sunday in Nashville, having spent much of his lifetime keeping promises he made to Memphis. He was 75. The Ohio-native had lived in Memphis five years when he set the tone for his community service in a speech to the Whitehaven Rotary Club in 1979.
In those first five years here, the then-37-year-old executive had shot up the ranks of Holiday Inns to become president. His leadership in restructuring the company helped raise operating income by 90 percent in three years.
But Rose almost apologetically acknowledged having “spent 100 percent or a little more of my time’’ on company matters, The Commercial Appeal reported at the time. “I have not spent much time in the local community. I admit that…'”
“My wife and I are delighted with Memphis,” he said. “We want to make a contribution as a company and as individuals and we will do our best. That’s a promise you can hold me to.’’
Within a few years, Rose would become an active member of the Memphis Arts Council, directly or indirectly help Memphis attract a convention center hotel developer, encourage his employees to also volunteer for civic causes, share his experience on hotels and casinos as “executive in residence” for Memphis State business students, and be named “Outstanding Citizen of 1985” by Civitan Clubs of the Greater Memphis Area.
Rose “kept his word, and then some,” Commercial Appeal editorial staff writer Norman Brewer wrote in 1981.
Born in Akron and moving with his middle-class family to Cincinnati at age 12, Rose was the son of an accountant. The boy grew into a towering 6-6 frame befitting a basketball forward. He played in high school but not college.
He spoke with a deep, soothing voice and sported a deeper, ever-present tan.
Rose also had a mind and work habits that won him academic scholarships. He earned a degree in business administration from the University of Cincinnati in 1963 and returned to Cincinnati in 1966 with a law degree from Harvard.
He joined a law firm which assigned him to work with a successful Holiday Inns franchisee, Roy Winegardner. The two worked so well together that Rose left law to form a company in 1972 with Winegardner, now his mentor in the hospitality industry.”