Kathryn Bassett Pardoe

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Kathryn Bassett Pardoe was born on August 24, 1892 to Catherine Smith and William E. Bassett. She completed a bachelor’s degree at Brigham Young University and commenced graduate work at both BYU and at Louisiana State University. She influenced many by her teaching and by her stellar roles in many major productions. Among the best known is her portrayal of Mary in Family Portrait (BYU). She and her husband, Dr. Pardoe, later donated more than three thousand plays and musicals to the drama collection at BYU. Together this husband-wife team left an indelible impression on the school they served so faithfully.

Early Life

Kathryn Bassett was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Catherine and William Bassett. The family soon moved south to Provo, where Kathryn (nick-named Irene) grew up. William and Catherine kept a tidy and beautiful home and Kathryn remembers theirs as one of the “showhouses” of Provo.

As a child Kathryn studied the piano but preferred to put on plays in the family’s barn. She also studied elocution with Miriam Nelke, who later became a professor at Brigham Young University. As Kathryn grew she had the opportunity to sing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for three years.

In 1908, there was a depression and William, who had invested in mining stock, lost everything except the Idaho farm the family owned. In 1910, when Kathryn was 18, the family moved to Sugar City, Idaho. Growing up as a relative “city girl,” the change to farm-life was difficult. That Christmas Kathryn’s parents suggested she attend Utah State University, and she moved to Logan, Utah, for the year. During that time the president of Ricks Academy (now BYU-Idaho) asked her to come to Rexburg and teach English and Speech at the school the following year. She consented and it was there that she met Professor Lawrence Sardoni and his wife.

After some months Kathryn’s father was kicked in the head by a horse and had moved the family to Ogden. She went to live with them and again, sang in the Tabernacle Choir and also taught speech and English at Central Junior High School.

During the fall of 1913 Kathryn was introduced to T. Earl Pardoe. He had just returned home after graduating from the Leland Powers School of Drama in Boston and had decided to set up a studio in Ogden. Although his teaching style was much different from hers, Kathryn decided to become his student. At their first lesson he proclaimed that she “moved like a cow!” but she continued under his tutelage.

After the couple’s third date, T. Earl proposed. Kathryn, who at that point was waiting for a missionary, refused. After careful consideration, however, Kathryn wrote a “Dear John” to her friend and accepted T. Earl’s hand when he asked again.

Career and Life with T. Earl

Family Portrait, 1940.
(L to R) Odessa Cullimore, Kathryn Pardoe, and Arta Baliff
On June 3, 1914, Kathryn and T. Earl were married in the Salt Lake Temple by David O. McKay and the couple started their life together. T. Earl taught at Weber Academy (now Weber State University) and also kept a studio. The couple soon had their first baby, Florence Norma, and Kathryn moved to California to live with her mother while T. Earl staged various plays and operas for the University of Utah and continued his teaching duties.

In December of 1916 William Edward was born and T. Earl was invited to teach summer school at Brigham Young University in Provo. As the war broke out the next year he volunteered to go overseas as an athletic director and entertainer, but was refused because he was a Mormon. December 23, 1918 brought their child Catherine into the family and the next year T. Earl was asked to open the Department of Speech at BYU, so the family moved to Provo. Early in 1919 Kathryn’s father passed away, and her mother moved in with the young family.

During the next several years T. Earl built up the Speech Department and produced many plays at BYU, all with a very mediocre stage available to him. Thomas Earl, Jr. was born in 1921 and a couple years later Kathryn began teaching part-time at Provo High School.

In 1924, President Franklin Harris asked Kathryn to take over the Department of Speech while T. Earl completed a master’s degree in New York. He came back to BYU with an advanced degree and, throughout his career as a professor, Pardoe brought many noted poets and dramatics to lecture at the school.

The couple welcomed David Preston to their family on February 27, 1927 and that year T. Earl had the opportunity to teach in Los Angeles, which he did for a short time. In the fall of 1932, after T. Earl completed another master’s degree, the family returned to BYU, where both he and Kathryn taught. Kathryn received a degree from BYU in 1934, and in later years the family moved to Louisiana, where Kathryn completed graduate work at Louisiana State University.

Over the following years the couple taught and T. Earl was invited to lecture at various universities. In their time at BYU the Pardoes saw the Department of Speech evolve and strengthen. T. Earl was sent on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the New England States and Kathryn continued teaching. At the end of their careers they donated over three thousand plays and musicals to the school.

To honor their legacy, one of the theatres in the Franklin S. Harris Fine Arts Center on BYU campus was named after them.

K pardoe.jpg

Personal Life

Kathryn and T. Earl had five children: Florence Norma (1915), William Edward (1916), Catherine (1918), Thomas Earl, Jr. (1921), and David Preston (who was born in 1927 and was killed in an accident in 1939).

Kathryn retired from her teaching position in 1968 but continued to work on plays. In April of 1974 the College of Fine Arts and Communications awarded her with the prestigious Franklin S. Harris Award. On November 2, 1969, after several struggles with his health, T. Earl passed away in Kathryn’s arms. Kathryn followed him almost 20 years later and passed away on February 1, 1988 at the age of 95.

References

  • Special Program for Naming of Areas, Franklin S. Harris Fine Arts Center. Tuesday, November 23, 1965 at Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602.

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