Longtime 'Voice of the Aggies' dies at age 90
By Frank Thayer
Posted: 11/12/2013 03:23:15 PM MST
LAS CRUCES >> For 35 years, the "Voice of the Aggies" never missed announcing a home football or basketball game for New Mexico State University, and it earned a place in NMSU's Athletic Hall of Fame for Thomas Erhard who died Sunday in Las Cruces at age 90.
While he was a dedicated Aggie fan and sports announcer, Tom Erhard was better known to hundreds of students and faculty as a professor in the English and the Theatre Arts departments, while also familiar to many thousands nationwide as the author of 39 plays for both young people and adult audiences.
A celebration of Erhard's life will be held at La Posta at 3 p.m. Thursday for his wide circle of family, friends and colleagues.
Erhard began his NMSU career in 1960 and retired as a full professor in 1991.
He had been in weakened condition for several months and was at Mesilla Valley Hospice since last Saturday. He died quietly early Sunday morning.
Born June 11, 1923, in East Hoboken, N.J., Erhard earned his bachelor's at Hofstra College in Hempstead, N.Y., in 1941. After military service in World War II, he returned to academics. His master's (1950) and doctorate (1960) were earned at University of New Mexico.
During WWII, Erhard was drafted into the U.S. Army and stationed at Camp Shanks, N.Y., where his assignment was to play baseball. Erhard rubbed shoulders with similarly drafted and volunteer professional ballplayers who joined the Army. Erhard said Hall of Famer Stan Musial, of St. Louis Cardinals fame, was especially a mentor to him.
Erhard taught English and journalism at Highland High School from 1949-1953, and served as director of public information for the Albuquerque Public Schools from 1953-1956 where he founded its Public Information Department.
He went on to become assistant director of press, radio and TV relations for the National Education Association in Washington for a year in 1957 before taking a position as senior fellow in the English department at UNM in 1959 while completing his doctorate. He then moved to NMSU in Las Cruces where he spent a 31-year professorial career starting in 1960. He retired as a full professor in 1991.
Of his many plays for young people, "Rocket in His Pocket" was one of several that achieved national fame, and the royalties from the play were sufficient to finance all the costs of his doctoral studies at UNM.
In more recent years, Erhard was commissioned by NMSU to write the play "And Here Come the Aggies" in celebration of the university's centennial year. He co-wrote the play with his wife of 34 years, Evelyn Madrid Erhard. The two also collaborated in the dramatic adaptation of the Frank Waters novel "The Woman of Otawi Crossing" produced in Reader's Theatre at NMSU in 1989.
As part of his service to education in New Mexico, Erhard founded the New Mexico High School Creative Writing Awards in 1961, a contest and publication that reached out to all New Mexico and Southwest regional high schools. It was a project that he directed for more than 25 years.
Because of his passion for sports, Erhard began announcing Aggie home games in football and basketball almost from the inception of his NMSU teaching career. He was in the press box for every Aggie home game from 1960 through 1995, four years after his official retirement from the faculty. To recognize his service NMSU inducted him into the Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006.
One of Erhard's most-treasured awards came in 1986 when he received Hofstra University's George M. Estabrook award to distinguished graduates, an honor shared with such luminaries as filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola.Erhard is survived by his wife, Evelyn Madrid Erhard, three sons and their spouses: Danny Erhard and Sue Terebenetz; Larry Erhard and Kathryn Sayles; Bruce Erhard and Martha Lyle. The family has chosen Getz Funeral Homes for cremation services. Frank Thayer is a professor of journalism and mass communications at NMSU.