Remembering a legend: Dr. Robert Packard
Beloved Baylor physics professor Robert Packard passed away Saturday in Waco at the age of 94. By some estimates, Dr. Packard had taught nearly a quarter of Baylor alumni during his six decades at Baylor, during which time he became renowned for his “Packard Physics” class.
But Dr. Packard was so much more than just a professor — as the university formally recognized in 1990, when he was named one of Baylor’s first Master Teachers. For more than 60 years, he and his wife, Joyce Hornaday Packard, BA ’52, MSED ’57, worked as a team to impact the lives of tens of thousands of young people, both locally and around the world.
We could list out the many, many honors Dr. Packard received throughout his tenure at Baylor — the Collins Outstanding Professor Award, the W.R. White Meritorious Award, the Legendary Mentor Award, etc. — but the impact of Dr. Packard’s life is best summed up in the words of those whose lives he touched. Here’s just a sampling of the stories we’ve heard on social media this week:
“Dr. and Mrs. Packard would welcome me to their home when I couldn’t get home during a break. I treasured their kindness then and now. They will always inspire me.” — Margaret Davis, BA ’67, MSED ’68
“I lost my mother the year before I went to college, and my father my first semester there. There were a handful of Baylor professors and staff that took a special interest in me and kept me centered personally, academically and existentially. Dr. Packard was one of those individuals. I am not sure I will ever be able to adequately thank them, but know I owe them all a great debt.” — W. Roy Smythe, BS ’84
“In a 1981 class lecture, Dr. Packard described a dog with an unusually high body temperature. At the end of the discussion, he, with a straight face, claimed that this was truly the first documented ‘hot dog’!” — Jeff Reeter, BBA ’84
“What a kind man! As if he didn’t get enough of college students during the week, he spent his Sundays ministering to them at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church.” — Anna Buehrer, BA ’85
“I took Packard Physics in 1986 and looked forward to going to his class in the lecture hall. My dad also had him as a physics professor about 20 years before me. Dr. Packard loved both physics and his students. When I took my oldest to Premiere this spring, I took him to Dr. Packard’s lecture hall and told him all about Dr. Packard.”— Rhonda Long Carlin, BBA ’90
“What an amazing man and professor! First day of class, he encouraged us to meet the students we were assigned to sit near. He even shared that several couples had met and fallen in love in his class. My husband and I were among this group and forever fondly remember Packard Physics!” – Denise Mason, BA ’97
“When Dr. Packard said yes and came to our wedding 20 years ago, we felt like we’d been given the biggest honor. His big, sincere, joyful smile is still such a strong memory from that day. Thank you, sir.” — Ann-Christin Lindstedt, BA ’98
“I’ll always remember learning about the thermodynamics of pizza. Rest in peace good sir.” — John Busselmaier, BA ’99
“Like many, I took his class my freshman year. I saw him walking across campus the afternoon following our first class and wanted to introduce myself. As I started to do so, he cut me off and said ‘Marc, I know exactly who you are. You are in my MWF 10am class and you sit in seat J8.’ My mind was blown.” — Marc Routzong, BBA ’00
It’s worth reading through the many, many more memories shared on Baylor’s Facebook and Instagram accounts of Dr. Packard; the stories offer even those who never had the privilege of taking his class an understanding of why he is such a legend on the Baylor campus.
Both audio and transcripts of Dr. Packard’s oral memoirs are available online, thanks to Baylor’s Institute for Oral History. Some of Dr. Packard’s former students have established the Robert G. and Joyce Hornaday Packard Endowed Scholars Fund at Baylor, which provides scholarship support for deserving students who are known as “Packard Scholars.”
Sic ’em, Dr. Packard, for your lifetime of service to Baylor and her students!
[NOTE: Because an overflow crowd is expected for Dr. Packard’s memorial service (Jan. 15, 2 p.m.), Columbus Avenue Baptist Church plans to offer streaming video of the service here.]