Robert G. Packard
August 13, 1924 - January 5, 2019
Dr. Robert Gay Packard passed away Saturday, January 5, 2019, in Waco, Texas. Services will be 2:00 p.m., Tuesday, January 15, at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church, with The Rev. Ron Durham and The Rev. Josh Vaughan officiating. A graveside service was held at 10:30 a.m., Thursday, January 10, at Oakland Memorial Cemetery in Fordyce, Arkansas.
Born Robert James Gay in Regina, New Mexico, in 1924, Robert moved at the age of two with his family to Temple, Texas. He excelled in his studies, graduating from Temple High School in 1943. Upon graduation, Robert enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in the Combat Engineers and Army Specialized Training Program before his assignment in the Signal Corps in the World War II Pacific Theater of Operations in 1944. During the war he was stationed at Diamond Head listening station in the Hawaii Islands. He served a stint in Kyoto, Japan, following the war before returning to the States and enrolling at the University of Texas at Austin. He earned three degrees there, a BS with highest honors in physics in 1949, an MA in physics in 1950, and a physics PhD Phi Beta Kappa in 1952.Robert spent several years during the early Cold War working on high-level national security and defense research at the University of Texas and teaching undergraduate courses in physics at his alma mater. In September of 1952, he received an invitation to become an Associate Professor of physics at Baylor University. It was during those first few years at Baylor when he met and married Joyce Hornaday, Assistant Dean of Women at Baylor. They were wed on April 15, 1954, by then university president, Dr. W.R. White.
Dr. Packard took his enthusiasm for teaching to many venues over his long career. He taught physics at the College of the Pacific and at Mississippi College in the 1950s. He was also a lecturer and visiting professor in the NSF Summer Science Institute on four occasions and served as a visiting professor at the University of South Carolina, Columbia University, University of Idaho, and Columbia College. At the request of the late Baylor president Abner McCall, Packard taught courses in physics and mathematics at Paul Quinn College in the late 1950s and early 1960s.One of Dr. Packard's favorite experiences was his time abroad with Joyce from 1960 to 1962, teaching in Indonesia with a medical team from the University of California. Living in Surabaya, he taught physics with the medical team and led a Sunday School class at a local Baptist mission.
Dr. Packard was a much beloved physics professor for almost six decades at Baylor University. He possessed a deep desire for knowledge and enjoyed nothing better than engaging in learning the thousands of students who took his class. He once explained his passion saying, "My philosophy is that you have to be stimulated to grow. I believe there is nothing more stimulating than a college student. For four years you'll have the (mostly) undivided attention of people who rank scholastically in the upper 5 percent of the entire population. They are at the point of transition from carefree youth to young adulthood. Mentally and physically, they are at the most exciting point in their lives. You can't grow old when exposed to that. Their energy, their drive, their joy – won't let you age while you are with them." Dr. Packard possessed a rare combination of high intellect with a commitment and ability to make complex ideas understood and appreciated by all his students.
Dr. Packard's influence on Baylor students went far beyond academics. He lived Christian values which impacted the lives of thousands of students. As pointed out by former Baylor President Robert Sloan during his remarks at Dr. Packard's retirement, over the course of his teaching career he had taught more students in his six decades of teaching at Baylor than any other faculty member had. He and Joyce were active in all facets of university life. He served on the Student Life Advisory Board, Mayborn Museum Complex Executive Committee, and was a Past President of Baylor University Strecker Museum. He was a faculty sponsor for Taurus, Circle K, and Kappa Omega Tau as well as for Student Congress. Additionally, he was a founding sponsor of the Baylor chapter for Habitat for Humanity, founded in 1987 as the first campus chapter of Habitat. Dr. Packard also was a member of Sigma Xi, Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Eta Sigma, Sigma Pi Sigma, Omicron Delta Kappa, and Alpha Epsilon Delta. He and Joyce are members of the Old Main Society, the 1845 Society, the Baylor Bear Foundation, and the Baylor Tip-Off Club.
Dr. Packard received many tributes for his teaching and service throughout his career. He was recognized as an Outstanding Educator of America and an American Man of Science. He was a Baylor University Alumnus By Choice, an Honorary Member of the Golden Key National Honor Society, and was designated as a "Master Teacher" in 1990. Kappa Omega Tau created a scholarship to honor Dr. Packard, and his longtime classroom in the Marrs McLean Building was renovated in 1990 and renamed the Robert G. Packard Lecture Hall in his honor. He served as the Grand Marshal in the 2003 Baylor Homecoming Parade and received the Baylor Habitat for Humanity Outstanding Faculty Service Award and the Baylor Alumni Retired Faculty Award for his continuous service to the university. Dr. Packard was also recognized in 2000 with the high honor of the W.R. White Meritorious Award for service to Baylor, in 2001 with the Collins Outstanding Professor Award, and in 2014 with the Baylor Legacy Mentor Award.
Robert Packard was a tireless servant to not only his academic community but also to his Waco community. He served two terms on EOAC, one term on Urban Renewal, and as a Waco Welcome Corp member. He volunteered as a docent at the Historic Waco Foundation's McCulloch House, worked with the Red Cross, and prepared questions for and judged the Rotary "Challenge" for fifteen years.
His service and teaching were the fruit of his profound devotion to bless others. He was a dedicated mentor, faithful colleague, and dear friend who enriched the lives of all with whom he came in contact.
Dr. Packard is survived by his wife of over 60 years, Joyce Hornaday Packard; his three brothers, Charles Packard, Wayne Packard, and I.B. Packard; as well as many nieces and nephews, including Dr. Anna Myers and her husband, Dr. David Myers, who have provided such loving care over these years.
Honorary pallbearers will be Dr. Fred Bierbaum, Rick Brophy, Dr. Ken Carlile, Steve Carlile, Dr. Robert Christian, Ed Crenshaw, Dr. Steve Cutbirth, Bill Dube, Dr. Marshall Edwards, Scott Edwards, The Honorable Jack Fields, Dr. Don Hardcastle, Dr. Sid Jones, Randy Larson, Dr. David Myers, Dr. John Reimers, Dr. Stephen Sloan, Larry Smith, Dr. Jimmy Williamson, and Dr. Ron Wilson.
The family expresses their deep appreciation to Bluebonnet Health Services, The Delaney, Visiting Angels, and most especially Maria Puente, for their very special care of Dr. Packard.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Robert G. and Joyce Hornaday Packard Endowed Scholars Fund at Baylor University, One Bear Place #97050, Waco, TX 76798, or to Columbus Avenue Baptist Church, P.O. Box 345, Waco, TX 76703.
The family invites you to leave a message or memory on our "Tribute Wall" at www.WHBfamily.com.