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Michael Kurth

April 2, 1946 ~ April 30, 2024

Michael Kurth, beloved husband, father, grandfather, professor, writer, economist, community organizer, and raconteur, passed away on April 30, 2024. He was born in Oak Park, IL on April 2nd, 1946 and spent his formative years in Michigan.

Mike, as most people knew him, studied Russian at the Defense Language Institute in 1965, and the School for International Service at American University in 1968, using his skills as a Russian linguist to monitor Soviet radio transmissions for the US Army. He received his BA in 1977 from Monterey Institute for International Studies, majoring in International Economics, with minors in Russian and German, and graduating as salutatorian. He went on to receive his M.S. and Ph.D. in Economics from Virginia Tech, where he studied public finance and public choice under Nobel Laureate James Buchanan.

Mike taught approximately 12,000 students in his 35 years as a professor—he adored teaching and stayed in touch with many students for years after graduation, offering deeply appreciated guidance and support. He served for eight years as Economics Department Head at McNeese State University, and Directed the H.C. Drew Center for Business and Economic Analysis, and The Pavers Guild, a project for student entrepreneurs.

With his own entrepreneurial spirit, Mike owned and operated Magnolia Plaza as President of CKDA Properties, and served as Principal of Kurth & Associates, offering economic consulting and analysis. As a consultant, Mike facilitated over 50 economic impact and benefit/cost studies, was an expert witness in approximately 200 legal cases, and authored “The Rita Report” for the Louisiana Recovery Authority, and indigent defense study for the American Bar Association, and a healthcare reform plan for Louisiana.

Mike was a prolific writer—he published 14 peer reviewed journal publications, receiving the Duncan Black Award for the best paper published in Public Choice in 1986. He penned upwards of 400 editorials, op-ed pieces and columns, including his beloved and often hilarious column at Lagniappe (a final one will appear posthumously.)

Mike was a deeply engaged and generous community member. He served on the Board of Trustees of Lake Charles Charter Academy, and was elected to the Calcasieu Parish Executive Committee of the Republican Party and the Republican State Central Committee, where he received 72% of the vote. He gave his expertise to the United Way Finance Committee from 2012-2016. and was on the Phillips 66 (formerly Conoco) Citizen Advisory Panel for 30 years. He also acted as President of the Board of Directors for Rebuilding Together – Calcasieu,

served on two of Governor Jindal’s transition teams (Hurricane Recovery and Fiscal Reform) in 2008 and was on the Board of Directors at ACTS Community Theater from 1990-1998 and 2007-2009. He helped plan events for Republican Rally-by-the-Lake with Mark Geist. Constitution Day with Judge Jenine Pirro, Presidents’ Day with Allen West, Presidents’ Day with Gov. Mike Huckabee, the Homes for the Holidays Christmas fundraiser for Rebuilding Togther-Calcalsieu, 2011, 2012 & 2013, Krewe du Grande Bois Mardi Gras Ball, 2012 & 2014, and Republican Roundtable monthly forums from 2012-2016. He offered around 150 presentations to civic clubs and organizations, and gave approximately 500 interviews in newspapers, and on television and radio. He and Cathy served as King and Queen of their Mardi Gras Krewe, Krewe du Grande Bois in 2020.

Anyone who knew Mike knew if you sat down for a conversation with him, you might not get up for hours—he loved to wax rhapsodic about everything from economics to how airplanes fly. He loved to cook for his family, and opened his doors to anyone who needed help, inviting kids in rough situations to stay with the family as long as they needed.

He is survived by his wife Cathy Kurth, his children Mette (Jeff) Kurth Frotton, Michael (Gayle) Kurth Brandeis, Lexi (Justin) Kurth Fontenot, Ryan Kurth, Traci (Jude) Kurth Frederick, and Billy Kurth, and his grandchildren Justin and Spencer Underwood, Ava, Aubrey, Parker, and Kobe Frederick, Asher Brandeis, and Caden, Collin, Rhett, Jolie, JJ, and Rhys Fontenot. He will be missed forever.

In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests contributions be made to the McNeese Foundation to the Dr. Michael M. Kurth Scholarship or Dr. Michael Kurth Scholarship in Finance. Donations may be made online at https://mcneesefoundation.org or checks may be made payable to “McNeese Foundation” and mailed to Box 91989, Lake Charles, LA 70609

Dr. Michael M. Kurth Scholarship – designated for sophomores, juniors, seniors or graduate students in the College of Science, Engineering and Mathematics.

Dr. Michael Kurth Scholarship in Finance – designated for juniors or seniors majoring in Finance.

Services

Visitation: Wednesday, May 8, 2024
9:00 am - 11:00 am

Johnson Funeral Home
4321 Lake Street
Lake Charles, LA 70605


Funeral Service: Wednesday, May 8, 2024
11:00 am

Johnson Funeral Home
4321 Lake Street
Lake Charles, LA 70605


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Guestbook

  1. Candle 1I’m so sorry for your loss. I have so many memories of Mr. Mike looking exasperated but doing his best to hide it. He was a good man.

  2. Cathy, our deepest sympathy to you from the Chamber SWLA/Alliance. Mike made great contributions to McNeese and our region. He was a very prolific writer for Lagniappe with articles which provided insight into our area’s economy. He will long be remembered. You are in our prayers during this time of loss.

  3. Cathy and the Kurth family: learning of Michael’s passing has been a hard assignment. I’ve known Michael ever since our days on the Conoco community advisory board and as a fellow Moss Bluff community member. I enjoyed reading his columns in the local magazine; he would always “bootleg” me an early draft of what would appear in the next edition. His contributions to the community and to our higher education process in SWLA has been very special.

  4. I worked with Dr. Kurth on numerous legal cases since about 1986. He was always a gentleman, a great teacher and communicator, and a pleasure to have on one’s team. Always spoke lovingly of his family!
    I loved to joust with him about politics! The only difficulty he had is that he was REASONABLE!! and we had many great discussions.
    Gonna miss me some Dr. Mike…

  5. Candle 1Dr. Kurth was one of my all-time favorite teachers. He had a way of making economics seem easy to learn and there was always an interesting anecdote to drive the lesson home. I consider myself fortunate to have been one of his many students.

  6. Cathy,
    I’m so sorry to read of Mike’s passing. I loved reading & learning more about him & his amazing life. What a wonderful gift he’s left the world with his legacy. You & your family are in my prayers.
    Much love,
    Heather Ieyoub

  7. I am so sorry on hearing Dr. Kieth’s passing. He taught me my first economics class. He had a profound affect on me as I still remember principles he taught. He was a fair in teaching and provided common sense in teaching.
    He has blessed many students with his God gifted talents. Southwest Louisiana and MSU will not be the same.
    I am praying for his family and that his soul have eternal rest and peace.

  8. Truly, a Gentleman AND a Scholar ~ an unusual combination !! I was lucky to be interviewed by Mike several times for ‘market perspectives’ in his Lagniappe articles on the stock market and the economy. Always a pleasure. He was a great member of his community and the McNeese Faculty. GodSpeed Dr. Kurth ~

  9. Cathy, it was my great pleasure to become acquainted and eventually a friend to Dr. Mike Kurth, and to renew with you our old DeQuincy connection. Serving on a board with him provided that opportunity, and the many memorable roundtable events and other events that he planned and hosted. The last telephone conversation I had with him started as business but went on unexpectedly long as a friendly visit, and I felt blessed by that. He was such a dear, outstanding man. Condolences to you, his large family, and many friends. His passing is a loss I feel personally and deeply. Please know that you may call upon me for anything at this time and in the future.

  10. Candle 1Cathy and Family, sending my condolences on your loss. Mike created and occupied large spaces full of warmth support and laughter. I took my first Economics class from him — Micro 101, Fall of 1998, and was hooked instantly. He approached economics as a fundamental study of human behavior, relating the principles in the most approachable terms — see his use of eating pizza or taking a bubble bath to illustrate the Law of Diminishing Marginal Returns. In the classroom he crafted powerful narratives, rather than simply relying on mathematical formulations, and outside of the classroom he was a persistent champion. He prompted me to pursue my PhD in Economics, and mapped the path for me — assuring me that my poor math skills would not be a problem (something we laughed a lot about over the years as he knew better!). Professor Kurth’s belief in my ability and his clarity sparked my confidence and changed my life.
    With sympathies for your loss and a good deal of gratitude for Mike’s life,


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