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Longtime BYU-I professor who ‘had a special sparkle’ remembered as funny, intelligent man who loved people

J. Kent Marlor passed away on Dec. 15 at age 87. | Courtesy Marlor Family
RIGBY – J. Kent Marlor, who was Brigham Young University-Idaho’s longest-tenured professor when he retired in 2006, passed away peacefully at Rexburg Home Health and Hospice last week.
The beloved 87-year-old Rexburg man died on Dec. 15 “due to incidents of age,” according to his obituary. Friends and family attended his funeral on Thursday at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Rexburg West Stake Center.
Marlor’s wife, Sharon, describes her husband as a “happy,” fun loving, intelligent man who loved to tease people and had an interesting sense of humor.
“He literally had his own language that he came up with,” Marlor’s daughter, Nan Wright, tells “He would say ‘froklidivet,’ which meant ‘clean up your act,’ but it was all in jest. Mom wrote a paper about his ‘Marlorisms’ for a class once.”
A passion for teaching
Wright says education was important to her dad. He obtained a doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania before coming to Ricks College for a teaching career.
He taught political science for 43 years beginning in 1963. The classes he taught included international politics, American history and various state and local government classes. Marlor was recognized by the state of Idaho when he retired 17 years ago.
“His retirement was read into the U.S. Congressional Record by Senator Mike Crapo as ‘A Dedicated and Passionate Idaho Educator,’ who wrote that ‘Over the years, at least 10 of my Senate interns have been his students as well as several current and former members of my staff,’” Marlor’s obituary says.
Marlor’s wife, Sharon — who went back to school at age 69 and took several classes from her husband — says it was his personality that endeared him to students.
“He taught continuing education classes in Idaho Falls and I would ride down and take classes. I kept taking classes all the years that he taught until I finally graduated,” Sharon says.
“I wasn’t happy that he wouldn’t help me with my school work,” Sharon adds, laughing.

Photo taken from an old newspaper clipping | Courtesy Nan Wright
The thing Marlor loved most about teaching, according to Wright, was helping students be successful and find the path that suited them best.
Marlor inspired hundreds of students over the years to go into politics or become an attorney. Among them was Sean Coletti, the mayor of Ammon who was a lawyer with Hopkins Roden Crockett Hansen & Hoopes in Idaho Falls for many years.
Coletti speaks fondly of attending Marlor’s classes as a political science undergraduate at Ricks College, and later working as an intern under his tutelage.
“He and Bob Inama (another longtime political science professor who died in 2021) were amazing teachers who just piqued my fascination with politics and government,” Coletti recalls. “(Marlor) had a way about him that really got you interested in the subject.”
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Coletti ran into Marlor from time-to-time while practicing law. Marlor hosted the Citizens Law Academy, a free seven-week course that gives members of the public a chance to learn about how the law and government works. Marlor and his associate in the program would often stop in and speak with Coletti at his law firm.
Though it’s been 25 years since Coletti’s college days, he says there are things he learned from Marlor that have stuck with him.
“He got me thinking about all aspects of an issue,” Coletti explains. “He wanted to teach all of the angles you could possibly consider on different issues — state, local, federal and international. (He helped instill) critical thinking skills that you don’t often get in your first or second year of college, and that’s something I really appreciated.”
Medlir Mema has a similar story. The 45-year-old Albanian man started teaching in the political science department at BYU-Idaho last fall. It was Marlor who inspired him to pursue a teaching career and he’s thrilled to be teaching the very same classes he took from Marlor 27 years ago.
“The very first class I took from him — international politics — I teach that same class. That’s bittersweet for me,” he says. “I’m also faculty advisor to the political science club, which is what he was to me when I was there.”
Mema initially set out to practice law, but Marlor’s example as his teacher and mentor prompted him to follow in his footsteps.
Mema later transferred to Utah State University to get a bachelors degree. Mema says Marlor helped pay for his education. Providing opportunities to students is something Mema describes as “a wonderful gift,” and he wants to pay it forward for his students.
“He was a deeply dedicated teacher,” Gary Marshall, Marlor’s colleague in the political science department for many years, says. “You’ve got to love to teach if you’re going to be there (43 years). Financially, there’s no incentive to stay more than 40 years because your retirement is just wasting away. The fact that he stayed (longer than that) was a testament to how he felt about the profession.”

Marlor, right, pictured with Medlir Mema, second from right, and Mikhail Gorbachev, second from left, former leader of the Soviet Union. Marlor was invited to take part in Gorbachev’s lecture on U.S.-Russian relations during an event at the Franklin Covey Symposium in Salt Lake 23 years ago. | Courtesy Nan Wright
A musician and record-breaking cryptographer
Though Marlor was devoted to teaching, Wright says her dad was gifted in other ways as well.
“He could type so fast (over 90 wpm),” Wright says. “He played piano and jazz like you wouldn’t believe. He’d be in the other room when I’d hit a wrong note and say, ‘Nan, that’s a B flat, not a B. That’s the problem.’”
While attending college at BYU, Marlor was offered a job in Naval intelligence because of his uncanny ability to decode messages.
“‘You’re cheating. There’s no way you can be that fast,’” a Naval officer once told Marlor, according to Wright. “My dad said, ‘I’ll do it again if you want me to.’ He did it again and was faster the second time and the guy was like ‘wow’ because he broke all kinds of records.”
It’s something Wright says her dad never talked about and she never knew about it until later in life.
Marlor spent four years in the Navy. He was stationed in the Philippines for two years before going to work for the National Security Agency in Baltimore, Maryland.

Marlor, left, with his colleague, Bob Inama, shortly before his retirement in 2006. | Courtesy Nan Wright
‘A sweet sparkle that made everybody feel special’
Kent and Sharon traveled extensively through the years. Sharon says they’ve visited all seven continents and everywhere they went, they’d always run in to a former student or someone that knew Kent.
The trip they took to Italy is Sharon’s favorite because that’s where they served a mission together.
One of Wright’s favorite memories of her dad is his ability to make anyone he was with feel like they were the most important person in the world. She has fond memories of the time her dad took her on a tour of Palisades during the school day. He checked her out of class without telling her mom.
A phrase Marlor often said to his kids and grandkids was “I love you to Norva and beyond.”
“When I was probably 8 or 10, I said, ‘That’s not even a place.’ He did some research and found it. It literally is a place! I can’t remember if it’s a star or a planet, but he always said that,” says Wright.
Wright is the operations manager at Hub International, where she was worked for more than 30 years. She’s grateful for her dad’s example of education and hard work that taught her how to be successful in life.
Wright started crying as she reflected on what she’s going to miss most about her dad.
“He just lit up the room,” she says. “He had a sweet sparkle that made everybody feel special and he loved my mom so much.”
In his final months at Rexburg Home Health & Hospice, Sharon says the staff absolutely loved Kent and every time she’d come to visit, he’d always say, “There’s my beautiful wife.”
“He was always so complimentary to me,” Sharon says. “I was reading his life history the other day and my goodness, there are two pages about me.”
Read Marlor’s obituary here.
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