Malcolm Ehrhardt, who not only founded and ran his own public relations firm but also served as a mentor to young professionals, died Saturday at his home in New Orleans. He was 74.
The cause of death has not been clarified, said his son Marc Ehrhardt, who succeeded his father as President of the Ehrhardt Group in 2018. The 18-strong firm’s clients include Chevron Corp., Galatoire’s Restaurant, the Roosevelt Hotel and the Ochsner Health System and the Broadway series at the Saenger Theater.
“He was an industry giant,” said Mark Romig, a longtime friend and chief marketing officer of New Orleans & Co. “What drove him was his interest in seeing people improve. He applied this to the clients he worked with and to improving the health of the community.”
In addition to running his company and teaching at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communications, Ehrhardt has been a mentor to young colleagues.
“When I started my own consulting business, he gave me an office (in his suite) and let me use his technology,” said Jim Lestelle. “He gave me everything I needed to run my own business and I wasn’t the only person he did that for.”
Lestelle, who held the post for 10 years, said Ehrhardt “hung around with people who might not have been employees. He surrounded himself with talent and he drew on your expertise and skills, whether it was writing or creating a PowerPoint presentation or providing advice.”
“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 shaped the relationship we developed after Katrina. We networked about what we can do to improve the community.”
A lifelong New Orleans native who graduated from De La Salle High School and the University of New Orleans, Ehrhardt earned a master’s degree in communications management from 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 was a partner at Montgomery, Stire & Ehrhardt.
Major events he was involved in included the 1987 visit of Pope John Paul II, the 1988 Republican National Convention, two Super Bowls, three Final Four tournaments and the opening of the National D-Day Museum in 2000, now the National WWII Museum.
“He was just a highly motivated, brilliant man, and he worked and acted as a leader in almost everything he did,” said Gordon “Nick” Mueller, the museum’s president and CEO emeritus. “He had a wonderful sense of how to communicate and how to appreciate the opportunities that arise for him, his clients and his friends.”
In 1997, Ehrhardt received the Lifetime Service Award from the UN’s National Alumni Association. He was President of the Greater New Orleans Executive Association, which named him Executive of the Year.
He was also made an honorary member of the City Park team in recognition of the 20 years he spent tending the lawn across from his home on City Park Avenue. When he first started this volunteer work, he had to run an extension cord down City Park Avenue to power the equipment, Marc Ehrhardt said.
The area he tended included the box hedges that make up CITY PARK. On Monday, people laid flowers in the hedges in his honor.
“He enjoyed being in the park and taking care of the hedges,” said Marc Ehrhardt.
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 9:00 a.m. in the US Freedom Pavilion at the National WWII Museum, the Boeing Center.
Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home is in charge of the preparations.