Werner Hans Erhard (born John Paul Rosenberg, 5 September 1935) is an author of transformational models and applications for individuals, groups, and organizations. He is currently writing about integrity and leadership and has lectured at Harvard, Yale, USC, the University of Rochester and Rotterdam School of Management.
Erhard was first known for the “est Training” (1971-1983) and the “Forum” (1984-1991), which were offered to the public through an organizational structure that included Erhard Seminars Training Inc. (1971-1975), est, an educational corporation (1975-1981), and Werner Erhard & Associates (WEA, 1981-1991). Erhard, along with John Denver, Robert W. Fuller, and others, founded The Hunger Project in 1977.
In 1991, Erhard retired from business, sold his intellectual properties to a group of his former employees (who formed Landmark Education) and moved abroad.
John Paul Rosenberg was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 5, 1935. His father was a small restaurant owner who left Judaism for a Baptist mission before joining his wife in the Episcopal Church where she taught Sunday School. They agreed that their son should choose his religion for himself when he was old enough. He chose to be baptized in the Episcopal Church, served there for eight years as an acolyte and is a life-long Episcopalian.
He graduated from Norristown High School, Norristown, Pennsylvania, in June 1953, along with his future wife Patricia Fry. Rosenberg married Fry on September 26, 1953 and they had four children together. In 1960, he left Fry and their children in Philadelphia, traveled to Indianapolis with June Bryde and changed his name to Werner Hans Erhard. Rosenberg chose his new name from Esquire magazine articles he read about then West German economics minister Ludwig Erhard and the philosopher and physicist Werner Heisenberg. June Bryde changed her name to Ellen Virginia Erhard. The renamed Erhards moved to
St. Louis, where Erhard took a job as a car salesman. His wife and children were forced to rely on welfare and help from family and friends, and after five years without contact, Patricia Rosenberg divorced Erhard for desertion and remarried.
In 1961, Erhard sold correspondence courses in the Midwest, then California, and eventually moved to Spokane, Washington. After a few months, he took a job with Encyclopædia Britannica’s “Great Books” program and was soon promoted to area training manager. In January 1962, Erhard switched to the Parents Magazine Cultural Institute, a child development materials division of Parents Magazine. In the summer of 1962, he was promoted to the position of territorial manager for California, Nevada, and Arizona, and moved to San Francisco; and in the spring of 1963 to Los Angeles. In January 1964, Parents promoted Erhard and transferred him to Arlington, Virginia as a southeast manager. In August 1964, Erhard resigned his position in Arlington over a dispute with the company president and returned to his previous position in San Francisco.
The Erhards moved into an apartment in Sausalito and had a second daughter, Adair, on December 27, 1964. In the next few years, Erhard brought on as staff at Parents many people who would become important in est, including Elaine Cronin, Gonneke Spits and Laurel Scheaf. In 1967, Erhard was promoted to vice president.
During his time in St. Louis, Erhard read two books which were to have a marked effect on him: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (1937) and Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz (1960).