Hannes Richter

Meet The Consul: Phillip Lorio III

Hannes Richter
Meet The Consul: Phillip Lorio III

Where are you originally from and where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. My ancestors originated in Limoges, France; migrated to Quebec, and, ultimately settled in South Louisiana where the family has lived since the mid 1700s.

What is your professional background?

I am a partner with the law firm of Deutsch, Kerrigan & Stiles, a firm that dates back to 1927. I have been with the firm since 1978, having first served as an assistant city attorney for the City of New Orleans for approximately four years after law school. My practice involves defending corporations mostly through their insurance carriers in personal injury lawsuits. I also defend doctors and other health care providers in medical malpractice litigation.

Since when have you been serving as Austrian Consul in New Orleans and how did that come about?

I was appointed Honorary Consul of Austria for Louisiana and Mississippi in August, 1991. Colonel Eberhard P. Deutsch, a founding father of my law firm, was General Mark Clark’s legal advisor following World War II when Austria was occupied by Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States. General Clark was in charge of the American zone. For Austria to return to home rule, many of the laws had to be unanimously approved by the four governments. The Soviets were vetoing proposed laws thereby delaying Austria’s return to sovereignty. Colonel Deutsch is credited with inventing and negotiating an opposing scheme whereby proposed laws required a unanimous veto for it to be rejected rather than a unanimous positive vote for adoption. Since the Soviet Union was the only negative vote, laws were passed and Austria returned to home rule in 1955. In appreciation for his services, Austria appointed Eberhard Deutsch its Honorary Consul in 1960. Colonel Deutsch's son, Brunswick G. Deutsch, a partner in the firm, followed his father as Honorary Consul in 1977.  In the late 1980s, when Brunswick Deutsch was approaching retirement, I guess I was in the right place at the right time and MR. Deutsch asked if I were interested in being recommended as his successor. Of course I was thrilled and honored, as I am today, to serve Austria as its Honorary Consul General.

New Orleans is home to a larger-than-average Austrian population, particularly students, and it is also known as a city to host great parties. Did that ever lead to any emergency calls on your phone?

The University of New Orleans (UNO) and the University of Innsbruck have had a student/faculty exchange program for thirty-seven years. In the combined wisdom of both institutions, the Austrian students come to New Orleans just in time to experience our Mardi Gras celebration. The students from New Orleans travel to Innsbruck during the heat of the New Orleans summer, thereby maximizing the benefits of each venue. Fortunately, over the past twenty-two years I cannot recall one incident involving an Austrian student experiencing any problems requiring my assistance during Mardi Gras, not even a lost or stolen passport. UNO invites me to its Innsbruck student orientation breakfast each year with a ranking member of the New Orleans Police department. Along with UNO faculty, we attempt to instill in the students the virtues of enjoying the party while staying safe. I believe all have been incredibly fortunate to have a good record in this regard. This exchange program is one of the first of its kind in the United States and continues to be a huge success.This summer the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law celebrates the 20th anniversary of its association with the University of Vienna’s Law School. Each summer, approximately seventy-five to one hundred law students go to Vienna to take courses taught by the faculties of law from the Vienna as well as the New Orleans institutions. For many students, this is their first experience traveling abroad. My wife is a law professor at Loyola and has taught with that program many times. Living in Vienna for two or three weeks makes Vienna our second home and afford us the pleasure of visiting many Austrians with whom we became friends during their postings in the U.S. While Loyola College of Law has many international summer programs, Vienna is definitely one of the most popular and successful.

Are there any other highlights from your work as consul that you would like to share?

Well, I would not call serving Austria as its Honorary Consul “work”. Sure there are tasks to be done like certifying documents and visiting  with the more senior Austrians to sign their proof of life papers for pension purpose; however, most of these tasks provide opportunities to know many delightful Austrians who have made this area their home.One of the earliest highlights of my position was attending Austria’s Conference for Worldwide Honorary Consuls hosted in Vienna in 1991. Being the most newly appointed consul, my wife and I were invited to join President Kurt Waldheim’s table for a dinner the President and Mrs. Waldheim hosted at their residence in the Hofburg. My wife was seated across from the Minister, later President, Thomas Klestil. I was seated across from the then Mrs. Klestil. It was a delightful evening and, with after dinner drinks in hand, Klestil approached Mrs. Waldheim and requested her key to unlock a wall panel. Mrs. Waldheim opened her purse, presented the red tasseled key, and Klestil approached a brocaded wall containing a small keyhole. Upon the panel opening, a beautiful golden recessed altar was exposed. This altar had been built by the emperor at the request of the pope for his visit to the Hofburg. We were among only a few at this dinner to view this well hidden treasure of the Habsburgs in the private residence of the president. How privileged we were! Really, there are more highlights than space allows to recount here. However, hosting former Chancellor Franz Vranitzky twice and many ambassadors, including six I served under, provided in-depth insights to the international political, social, and cultural arenas. Traveling with local mayors and governors to Austria, dining with the now deceased former Senator George McGovern and his wife in Innsbruck, and being wined and dined by dignitaries while visiting Austria all comprise memories I will treasure forever, along with the many continuing friendships. I cannot think of a better country than Austria to represent as consul.

How about the Austrian community in the area? Are you in touch with some of them?

Back in the early 1990s, Club Schoenbrunn was a social organization founded by several local Austrians. They were kind enough to welcome Kathy and me into their group. We had two to three social events most years. As that population aged, the number of social events dwindled. The subsequent generation has assimilated so strongly into American contemporary society, Club Schoenbrunn, unfortunately, is not as active as it once was. Of course, when hosting Austrian events, we invite the community and others who have expressed an interest in Austria.

New Orleans and the city of Innsbruck in Austria are sister cities. What is your take on this transatlantic relationship?

Because of the longstanding academic association I mentioned earlier, as well as a common love of music and food, this relationship was natural. It was almost twenty years ago when I travelled to Innsbruck with several New Orleans city officials to execute the Sister City Agreement between Innsbruck and New Orleans. While I have not personally experienced it, Innsbruck hosts a “New Orleans festival” each summer. New Orleans flags are flown over the Innsbruck Bridge during the festival. Prominent jazz, blues, gospel and other style musicians travel from New Orleans to Innsbruck to participate in this now famous festival. Several local chefs cook Southern specialties in Innsbruck for this event. Unfortunately, while New Orleans has many festivals, we do not yet have an Innsbruck festival. Perhaps….one of these days.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. As a consul, would you like to share your perspective on the storm and the city’s recovery since?

Hurricane Katrina was a wakeup call for the City of New Orleans. To the city’s credit, New Orleans has rebounded. The public education system has been totally revamped and many of the older schools have been, or are in the process of, being rebuilt and renovated. The same is true for our major parks and recreational areas. There are more restaurants open now than before Katrina. I recall after fleeing the city at the end of August 2005, and returning when the city “reopened” two months later, there were only a handful of functioning restaurants. Groceries were even harder to find. It is now almost eight years later and according to a local restaurant critic there are now 1,346 restaurants currently open around town.  Our convention and tourist business is back in full swing and all of the major hotels and restaurants which were badly damaged in the storm are now renovated, rebuilt and operating in their full glory. Pot holes in the streets are still being fixed and some of our badly damaged neighborhoods still need help. However, these areas are being improved on a day to day basis and none affect enjoyment of our city by our visitors. Most importantly, New Orleans has a renewed vibrancy. Young professionals and entrepreneurs are moving to New Orleans, and our children are making this their home rather than fleeing to Houston, Atlanta and New York, thereby ensuring a bright future for New Orleans, which we lovingly call "The Big Easy."

phil.jpg

Philip D. Lorio III was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1948. It remains his lifelong home. His wife, Kathryn Venturatos Lorio, is a law professor at Loyola College of Law and they have two children, Elisabeth and Philip. Along with Elisabeth’s husband, Jason Baer, they are all practicing attorneys in New Orleans. Mr. Lorio is currently the president of The Society of the War of 1812 and has also served as president of the Society of the Founders of the City of New Orleans and the Louisiana Association of Defense Counsel.