Name: Noel Pardo, Director of Campus Initiatives, Tabor Academy
How he got to Tri-Town: Originally from Buffalo, went to Holy Cross. “I was working in Boston, and I applied to several schools. Tabor happened to be one that offered me the ability to coach crew, teach history, and live in the dorms. It really married together.”
Ever met a celebrity locally? Back in the mid-1990s, when he was a young history teacher, his parents came to visit for the first time and he took them out for a boat tour of the harbor. “We get out to the outer harbor, and this person waves me down, I’m like ‘Hey, Mom, Dad, we have to help this guy out.’ We say hello, I start towing him back, and I keep looking – I know this guy! Finally, he says ‘I’m James Spader,’ and I’m like ‘I know James Spader! I know who you are!’ It was kind of embarrassing, he was cool about it. And my parents had no idea who he was.”
Favorite place in Tri-Town? Having lived, worked, and started a family on the Tabor Academy campus for over two decades, it still holds a magical sway. “When I started out, it was ‘Oh, do you believe this place!’ I’m a little used to it now, but not totally.”
By Jonathan Comey
Over 22 years on the Tabor Academy campus in a variety of roles, Noel Pardo has taught and coached an entire generation of unique, unpredictable young people. Every class, every student, every athlete, each with their own way of navigating toward college and beyond.
But one thing never changes. The water.
From the first time he watched an oar slice into the ocean off the Tabor boathouse in 1995, Pardo has been hooked on this idyllic slice of life.
“I don’t know how many people get to live in a town like this,” he said. “You walk around, and it’s so idyllic, you’re like, is this real? There can’t be more than a handful of towns like this in the world.”
As Tabor Academy’s Director of Campus Initiatives and men’s crew coach, Pardo brings a positive energy and obvious passion for the school’s mission.
“I didn’t know about boarding schools until I started working at one,” says Pardo, who lives at Tabor’s Heath House with his wife and three children (two of whom are Tabor students, one of whom is at ORR junior high). “I love the way you are able to work with kids in so many different ways. You might have a kid in the classroom, on the crew team, and then you see the kid in the dorm.
“I think now that I have kids, I realize that at a certain point, no one has more of an impact on your kids than teachers. And I think especially at a place like Tabor, there are a lot of opportunities to affect a young person’s life.
“It is a very powerful role, and there’s a lot of responsibility, but when you get the light bulb to pop off over their head, that’s what it’s about. As many moments as I can have with those kids, the better.”
For Pardo, who rowed collegiately at Holy Cross, the sport of crew is a perfect way to help build a young person’s character.
“There’s no MVP on a crew,” Pardo says. “You’re doing a repetitive cycle of things, and the mastery is: Not only do I have to master my own individual stroke, I have to master everyone’s stroke. I have to follow you, and you have to follow me, and in our boats, where we race with eight, you have to be doing it with seven other guys.”
It’s no easy gig, being part of the Tabor crew: two-hour practices every day for an entire spring, all for eight or ten competitions lasting only about five minutes.
All told, a team has to make about two thousand strokes over the course of the season. Getting each of those strokes in perfect unison is the unattainable – getting as close as possible as you can is the goal.
“If you watch it, there’s a smoothness to it, and the team that has the smoothness is usually the team that’s pulling ahead,” he says. “You can’t be an individual. You can’t be a Michael Jordan on the boat.”
Multiple members of each graduating class traditionally go on to row collegiately, but Pardo uses a different measuring stick for success.
“I want them to be good citizens to other people,” says Pardo. “And I think one of the values that I got out of doing rowing in college is that people were good to other people. People took care of people. Do I like to win? Yes. But it’s not the thing I talk about the most. It’s the team. It’s constantly working toward that goal – we’re going to try and achieve as many good to great strokes as possible.
“Being good to one another, trusting one another – when you see that happening, you get pretty excited as a coach.”
Pardo says he’s never seriously pursued the idea of coaching the sport collegiately. Alluring as it might be, life on the Marion shore proves even more attractive.
“There are times when I’m really into the sport, and I do think about it … but the balance, when you’re living and working here, there’s a cycle and a difference that work hand in hand,” he says.
“Boarding school teachers might not always like the workload, but they’re never bored.”