Our esteemed founder Malcolm Ehrhardt had, and fostered in all who worked with him, an undying respect for the media. In loving memory of his unparalleled career and life, we thought it best to let their words impart the great works of a life well lived.
By: John Pope
Malcolm Ehrhardt, who not only founded and led his own public relations firm but also served as a mentor to people entering the profession, died Saturday at his New Orleans home. He was 74.
The cause of death has not been determined, said his son Marc Ehrhardt, who succeeded his father as president of the Ehrhardt Group in 2018. The 18-member firm’s clients include Chevron Corp., Galatoire’s Restaurant, the Roosevelt Hotel, the Ochsner Health System and the Broadway Series at the Saenger Theater.
“He was a giant of the industry,” said Mark Romig, a longtime friend and chief marketing officer for New Orleans & Co. “What made him tick was his interest in seeing people improve. He applied that with the clients he worked with and with improving the health of the community.”
In addition to running his business and teaching at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communications, Ehrhardt was a mentor to young colleagues.
“When I started my own consulting business, he gave me an office (in his suite), and he let me use his technology,” Jim Lestelle said. “He gave me everything I would need to run my own business, and I wasn’t the only person he did that for.”
Lestelle, who occupied that office for 10 years, said Ehrhardt “surrounded himself with people who may not have been employees. He surrounded himself with talent, and he would draw on your expertise and skills, whether it was writing or making a PowerPoint or consulting.”
“I found him to be a very compassionate, caring person,” said Bill Rousselle, co-founder and president of Bright Moments, a public relations agency. “That formed the relationship we developed after Katrina. We linked ourselves around what we could do to make the community better.”
A lifelong New Orleanian who graduated from De La Salle High School and the University of New Orleans, Ehrhardt earned a master’s in communications management at Syracuse University. He also completed a Harvard Law School seminar entitled “Dealing With an Angry Public.”
He was a U.S. Army infantryman in Vietnam who was awarded a Bronze Star and the Combat Infantry Badge.
Before Ehrhardt and his wife, Pia Ehrhardt, founded the Ehrhardt Group in 1996, he had been a partner at Montgomery, Stire & Ehrhardt.
Among the major events on which he worked were the 1987 visit of Pope John Paul II, the 1988 Republican National Convention, two Super Bowls, three Final Four tournaments and the 2000 opening of the National D-Day Museum, now the National WWII Museum.
“He was just a highly motivated, brilliant man, and he worked and performed as a leader in almost everything he did,” said Gordon “Nick” Mueller, the museum’s president and CEO emeritus. “He had wonderful intuition about how to communicate and how to appreciate the opportunities that unfolded for himself, his clients and his friends.”
In 1997, Ehrhardt received the Lifetime Service Award from UNO’s National Alumni Association. He was president of the Greater New Orleans Executive Association, which named him Executive of the Year.
He also was named an honorary member of City Park’s grounds staff in recognition of the 20 years he spent tending the swath of greenery across from his home on City Park Avenue. When he started this volunteer work, he had to run an extension cord across City Park Avenue to power the equipment, Marc Ehrhardt said.
The area he nurtured included the boxwood hedges spelling out CITY PARK. On Monday, people put flowers in the hedges to honor him.
“Being in the park and taking care of the hedges brought him joy,” Marc Ehrhardt said.
Survivors include his wife, Pia Ehrhardt; three sons, Marc Ehrhardt, of New Orleans; Jeffrey Ehrhardt, of Covington, and Andrew Ehrhardt, of Boston; two brothers, Phil Ehrhardt, of Metairie, and Ken Ehrhardt, of River Ridge; a sister, Gwen Welch, of Metairie; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
A service will be held Friday at 9 a.m. in the National WWII Museum’s U.S. Freedom Pavilion: the Boeing Center.
Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
View article on Nola.com: https://www.nola.com/news/article_edebc7a8-a3e2-11ec-a965-4b7e44882a12.html.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that loved ones and friends donate to the following:
- “Malcolm’s Hedge Fund” – Working in conjunction with City Park, we are creating a fund that will ensure the ongoing care and maintenance of the City Park hedges along City Park Ave. https://neworleanscitypark.com/in-memory-of-malcolm-ehrhardt
- NOLA VFW Post 8973 – Donations may also be made to the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, which was near and dear to Malcolm, in his memory. https://www.nolavfw8973.org/donation-index