Justin Reid Ehrenwerth
September 5, 1978 - May 11, 2023

Memorial Information

June 4 2023 - 2:00 pm
Temple Sinai, 5505 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh (Squirrel Hill) 15217

JUSTIN EHRENWERTH: An internationally recognized expert on coastal policy known for leading the Louisiana-based Water Institute, died on May 11th at his home in New Orleans.

Appointed the second President of the Water Institute in 2017, Justin committed himself to protecting the Gulf and waterways across the country, and also advising government officials in Singapore, the Netherlands, and France - as well as by more local moments delivering soup when employees feel ill, or calling his elderly relatives to check on them. 

He was above all a devoted family man and true mensch.

His greatest love was his family, especially his wife Dana and his two young sons - Charles and Louis. This extreme closeness included his father David Ehrenwerth and step-mother Judith Ehrenwerth as well as his sister Lindsey and her husband Everett and their three children with whom he spoke constantly. Justin also always held dear his late mother Kandy Reidbord Ehrenwerth who was killed in a car accident when he was thirteen.

Justin Reid Ehrenwerth was born September 5, 1978, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He attended Shady Side Academy where he graduated at the top of his class, was President of the Student Body and captain of the tennis team. Justin attended Colby College in Maine, where he competed for the Colby Woodsmen, throwing double-headed axes at targets from 15 feet. He became the National Champion of the United Stated and Canada. It's also where he met his future wife Dana on the first day of school. He graduated summa cum laude in 2001, while serving as President of the Student Body.

He next traveled overseas to attend Brasenose College at Oxford University. At Oxford he joined the boxing team and studied PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economy) where he obtained a master's degree. He returned stateside to attend law school at the University of Pennsylvania, where he developed a passion for civil rights law and public interest.

Following his accomplishments on the national political campaigns of John Kerry and Barack Obama, he became a member of Barack Obama's White House legal team. He subsequently was appointed the inaugural Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. The Council was created in the aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and charged with distributing billions of dollars in penalties to restore the Gulf Coast's economy. He then took on leadership at the Water Institute. He recently received the Baton Rouge Foundation's annual award for excellence in nonprofit management. 

"Justin's passing touches so many people who knew him well and respected his intellect and boundless enthusiasm for his work," said Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. "He embodied the essence of what service to one's state, community and neighbors is all about and made a powerful and positive impact on Louisiana and the entire Gulf coast. His presence and his work will be sorely missed."

Justin was very happy to have New Orleans be his second home, religiously attending Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, while joining the Board of Touro Synagogue as well as the board of the Anti-Defamation League, where he was an active voice on the Civil Rights Committee. He loved walks with his boys on the levee near his house discovering batture encampments and sharing his love of jazz with Charles and Louis.

He read avidly works by F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Salter, and never turned down adventure - traveling to Bhutan, Morocco, and across Europe. He often pushed off in a kayak to explore Louisiana, taking solo trips on the local bayous.

A black and white photo of Ernest Hemingway continues to rest on the mantle of his study, alongside an article about his late mother, who was a litigator and activist. Ehrenwerth was a virtuoso on the harmonica, often traveling with a number of the shined instruments in various keys, and rooted passionately for his Steelers. (Last year he hosted a group from New Orleans when the Saints football team visited Pittsburgh.)

Before arriving in New Orleans, Ehrenwerth served as Assistant Counsel to President Barack Obama, where he took the lead on Deepwater Horizon litigation for the White House working with the Department of Justice. He also served as a member of the Oversight and Litigation group representing the White House in Congressional investigations and advising federal agencies on oversight matters.

Prior to joining the White House, Ehrenwerth served in the U.S. Department of Commerce's Office of General Counsel and subsequently as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary and Acting Secretary of Commerce. He received NOAA's Award for Excellence for work in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2023.

A private burial will be held in Pittsburgh and a Memorial Service will be held at 2:00 pm on Sunday, June 4th, at Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill. A prior Memorial Service will be held in New Orleans.

Donations can be made to the Anti-Defamation League (adl.org) where Justin was a committed Board member. 

Arrangements entrusted to Ralph Schugar Chapel, Inc., family owned and operated. www.schugar.com


Send Condolence

I want to express my sympathy to the Ehrenwerth family on the passing of beloved Justin. I talked to his Father, David, many years ago, a very impressive gentleman 🙏

By Richard Gordon - May 17, 2023

David and Judy, I am devastated to read this tragic news. What an accomplished son. Please know that you have my heartfelt sympathy and my thoughts are with you.

By Erik Wagner - May 16, 2023

Our sympathies!

By Marsha and Sheldon Clark - May 16, 2023