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Dennis Ehrhardt

Dennis Ehrhardt, who spent 38 years teaching geography and urban planning at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, passed away on July 24, 2011, at the age of 69, after a long and courageous battle with cancer.

Dennis Karl Ehrhardt was born on December 16, 1942 in Waterloo, Iowa. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Iowa, as well as his doctorate. His PhD thesis, completed in 1972, was entitled “An ecological analysis of the zoning variance requests and approvals: a case study of Cedar Rapids, Iowa 1959-68.”

Although he was destined for an academic career, Ehrhardt’s first publications were about improving geography teaching at lower levels and co-authored with his wife, Shirley, who was an elementary school teacher. Together they wrote “Teaching World Geography Concepts: A Kindergarten Approach” (The Missouri Geographer, Fall 1972) and “Let's Learn Our States: A Gaming Strategy” (Journal of Geography, April 1973).

Ehrhardt’s first teaching positions were at the University of Wisconsin-Oskosh and then Saint Louis University before moving to the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now University of Louisiana at Lafayette) where he stayed for almost four decades. He began as an Associate Professor and the Coordinator of City and Regional Planning, working his way up to head of the Department of Geography when the department was created. He remained the Coordinator of Geography when the department merged with the History Department.

Over the years Ehrhardt taught numerous undergraduate and graduate geography classes related to planning including city and regional planning, environmental and recreation planning, preservation planning, and housing and community development. But his expertise stretched across the breadth of human geography; at various points in his career he taught general courses on political geography, economic geography, urban geography, and social geography, as well as regional geography courses – the geography of the United States and Canada, Latin America, Europe, Middle East, and the Soviet Union. Ehrhardt contributed to the intellectual development of generations of students. He truly loved teaching and mentoring the students, with many keeping in touch with him even during his final days.

In addition to his university responsibilities, Ehrhardt worked as a private consultant, including as the Planning Consultant for Iberia Parish Government, providingexpertise and consulting services for a variety of projects, such as preparing the Iberia Parish Infrastructure Master Plan, revising the subdivision regulations, and implementing a comprehensive zoning plan.

He was also an expert witness on numerous court cases concerning matters of urban planning in Louisiana and Mississippi. One of the court cases for which he testified, James Hernandez v. City Council of Lafayette 3-15, was eventually heard by the Supreme Court.

Ehrhardt was involved in several professional organizations, serving on boards and committees and presenting papers at annual conferences. He was a member of the Association of American Geographers, particularly involved in the Southwest Division, serving one year as Chair in 1981. He was also a member of the American Institute of Planners and the Southwestern Social Science Association.

Ehrhardt loved sports. He was a life-long fan of the University of Iowa’s football and basketball teams, and at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette he was actively involved in athletics. 

In his spare time, he loved to fish with friends, travel around the world, and visit his family. He is survived by his two daughters and four grandchildren.