Arlie Schardt Jr. was born in 1933. His father was an accomplished athlete, winning a gold medal for the 3,000-meter run at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp.
The younger Schardt was likewise a fine athlete. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1954, where he was sports editor of the Daily Cardinal, he competed in the 1956 U.S. Olympic water polo trials in Los Angeles as a member of a U.S. Army all-star team. While on the west coast for those trials, Schardt also explored opportunities as a television actor, appearing in two episodes of Father Knows Best.
After serving two years as sports information director at Bucknell University, Schardt became a reporter for Sports Illustrated magazine, where he covered the 1960 Rome Olympics as well as collegiate swimming events and environmental issues.
In 1960 Schardt became a media consultant with the American Forest Foundation, a post he would continue to hold until near the end of his life.
In the early 1960s, Schardt secured a job in Chicago with Time magazine. He was subsequently transferred to Time’s Atlanta Bureau, where he covered various events in the civil rights movement. On March 7, 1965 – a date that became famously known as “Bloody Sunday” – Schardt was in Selma, Alabama where he walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge with Martin Luther King Jr. and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) chairman John Lewis. When radical SNCC leader Stokely Carmichael later purged Lewis from the organization in May 1966, Lewis sought solace on the front porch of Schardt’s home.
In 1968, Schardt contributed to Time cover stories on Federal Judge Frank Johnson and the presidential campaign of Alabama Governor George Wallace.
In the 1980s Schardt wrote extensively about fundraising for nonprofit organizations, first as editor of Foundation News and later (1988-92) as vice president for communications at the Council on Foundations.
In 1993, Schardt, in partnership with communications specialist David Fenton, founded Environmental Media Services (EMS) and subsequently served as the organization’s president from 1994-2006. When EMS defended the eco-warriors who rioted violently in Seattle during the city’s 1999 World Trade Organization meetings, Schadt said of the $200,000 in grants that his organization had received specifically for addressing WTO issues: “I wish I had more.”
In 2000, Schardt was the communications director of Al Gore’s unsuccessful presidential campaign.
In addition to his aforementioned activities, Schardt served variously as a senior counselor/advisor for Fenton Communications; a board member of the Center for Environmental Citizenship; chairman of the Center for Citizen Initiatives (formerly called Center for US-USSR Initiatives); a project director of the Tides Center; and an editor at Newsweek magazine. He also wrote extensively for such publications as The Nation, New Republic, Commonweal, The New York Times, and Life magazine.
Schardt died on May 25, 2020 after a 30-year battle with prostate cancer. He was survived by his wife, Bonnie Nelson Schwartz; a sister, Constance Searcy; two daughters, Karen and Kristin Schardt; as well as four stepchildren and thirteen grandchildren.