T. Earl Pardoe

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Thomas Earl Pardoe was born in Ogden, UT on Feb. 24, 1885 to Tom and Leonora Pardoe. Throughout his life he was a teacher, an author, an actor, a missionary, a biographer, a civic worker, a husband, and a father. On June 3, 1914 he married Kathryn Bassett and the couple eventually had five children: Florence Norma, William Edward, Catherine, Thomas Earl, and David Weston.

Early Life

Tom Pardoe and his family immigrated to Utah from Stratford-on-Avon, England, where their home stood four doors from Shakespeare’s birthplace. T. Earl's mother, Leonora, joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while living in England and subsequently tried twice to relocate to Utah before arriving successfully. Although T. Earl's father was a barber, he strongly encouraged a musical education for his children. Each child was expected to learn to play a musical instrument by the age six, otherwise they were given spankings by the entire family. While in Utah T. Earl attended the old Washington School on Grant Avenue.

At the age of 14 he worked for a summer as a team driver in Idaho for the Utah Construction Company. Throughout high school he staged programs and plays while working nights at D&RG Railroad. In school T. Earl demonstrated incredible mathematical skills. During his high school days T. Earl assisted Reverend Garver of the local Presbyterian Church with programs and organization of plays. For his senior play, Priscilla, he played Miles Standish. He excelled in his classes and graduated Magna Cum Laude. After graduation Pardoe went to work for the railroad as a dining car assistant auditor for a time on the line from Ogden to Portland. Through the aid of his grandfather he received a scholarship to Stanford, where he began his schooling in engineering. He also worked for the university, teaching gymnastics and wrestling and tutoring math. He later returned to Ogden to work for Fred J. Kiesel, a wholesale grocery store owner. It was during this time that he staged a community operetta, Ermine.

Young Earl 2.JPG


For a time T. Earl also worked for the old Ogden Opera Company. The owners of this company, Jim Cruz and Melford, went on to form Goldwyn, the first motion picture company. T. Earl worked as a prop man and filled in when actors could not perform. When Melford and Cruz offered T. Earl the opportunity to join them on their venture to California, he turned them down. T. Earl knew that, despite his talent in mathematics, his passion was theater. Consequently he entered the Leland Powers School of the Drama in Boston, from which he graduated in 1913. His training there was interrupted when he left to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Eastern States (1911-1913), which also happened to be where his uncle, Ben E. Rich, served as mission president. After his mission and graduation from the Leland Powers School he became associated with opera companies and dramatic groups in California, Utah, and Boston. He also tried out for the chorus in the Boston Grand Opera, was admitted, and became acquainted with the stars of that day. While in Boston, he worked as a reporter for The Deseret News in the "Utahns in Boston" column. After graduating he returned to Utah and opened his own drama studio in 1914.

T. Earl graduated from drama school as president of the student body. Then he was compelled to bring his ailing uncle back to Ogden and it was at this time that he met his wife, Kathryn Bassett. His sister, Leah, originally introduced the two but there were later experiences that through the couple together. One such experience happened while T. Earl was serving as the understudy of a leading actor in the comedic opera, The Girl from Paris. The day of the dress rehearsal, the leading man froze up and dropped out of the opera, necessitating that Pardoe take his place, which he did, starring alongside his future wife, who happened to be the lead actress. T. Earl and Kathryn were married on June 3, 1914 by David O. McKay. Shortly after the two were married T. Earl taught public speaking and drama at then Weber Academy, now Weber State University. Among his accomplishments at this time, T. Earl staged an open air opera series in Nibley Park in Salt Lake City and a production of Aida at the Orpheum Theater at the University of Utah.


In 1916 Pardoe was invited to teach summer school at Brigham Young University. During World War I T. Earl reunited with former friend Rev. Garver to volunteer as an athletic director and entertainer for the troops. After the war T. Earl opened the first Department of Speech at BYU in 1919. At this same time T. Earl and Kathryn purchased a home and rented out their basement to BYU students, one of whom was future BYU president, Ernest Wilkinson.
Dr. T. Earl Pardoe, Age 60

The first play Pardoe staged at BYU was Brown of Harvard, followed by Strongheart, Rolling Stone, and It Pays to Advertise. President Brimhall recognized Pardoe’s talent and gave him permission to remodel College Hall and create a better stage for performances. The only problem with this set-up was that the stage was up three flights from ground level and all props or sets had to be removed frequently and stored in a nearby barn.

During his time over the Department of Speech Pardoe brought the famous Irish poet, William Butler, and the great American poet, Robert Frost, to BYU campus. While he was at BYU Pardoe took the opportunity to complete an associates degree in Business in 1925. Pardoe also served as BYU’s first tennis coach, receiving no additional pay for his services. In 1927 Pardoe and his family moved to Los Angles, California to teach at the Major School of Theater for a much larger salary. However, after the owner did not keep his promises Pardoe resigned and started his own studio where he wrote Pantomimes for Stage and Study.

In 1931 Dr. Harris asked T. Earl to return to BYU but he was unable to do so because he was working on his master's degree at USC. In 1933, after receiving his MA in Psychology, Pardoe moved to Louisiana to complete his doctorate degree in Speech, which he completed in 1937. In 1938 T. Earl traveled to Brussels, Belgium to lecture on Negro Dialects at the International Society of Phonetics. During his post-doctorate career Pardoe served on the YMMIA General Board from 1940-1950, and wrote four texts on speech and literature. From 1945-1946 Pardoe also was the Department Chair for the Department of Communications at BYU.

Throughout his life Pardoe staged over 500 plays and operas and was well-known in the stage, radio, and academic circles of the United States. From 1952-1971 he was given the chief responsibility of the BYU Alumni Association and during that time served a second mission to the New England States Mission (1954-1955).

When T. Earl returned to BYU to work in the Alumni House he finally received his first individual office. Even until his later years T. Earl and his wife took students on tour in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. He also served as the vice-president of the National Sons of the American Revolution, Chairman of the National Oratorial Contest, and was nominated "Man of the Year" by the Sons of the Utah Pioneers. He passed away November 2, 1969 in the arms of his beloved Kathryn.

The Pardoe Theatre, located in the Harris Fine Arts Center is named in honor of T. Earl and Kathryn.

External Links


Pardoe Family
Family picture taken Easter 1939. (L to R: Thomas Earl Jr., Florence Norma, T. Earl, David Weston, Kathryn Bassett, William Edward, Catherine)


  • Kathryn B. Pardoe, Family History of T. Earl and Kathryn B. Pardoe, L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
  • T. Earl Pardoe Interview, Harold B. Lee Library Archives
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