Far away from the campus they called home for more than five decades, beloved Baylor physics professor Dr. Bob Packard (ABC '86) and his wife, Joyce (BA '52, MSEd '57), were speaking at a university in Taiwan when a student politely raised his hand and asked how many children they had...
"My response was 'thousands,'" Joyce remembered. "He asked how that could be. And it's kind of hard to explain, isn't it? But we claim all Baylor students as our own.'
If you know anything about the Packards, you know that claim makes sense. It has been estimated that Bob taught nearly a quarter of all Baylor alumni in his 50 years as a Baylor faculty member. Joyce lived on campus for 44 years, starting as a student and continuing for many years as Assistant Dean of Women.
"I think Baylor attracts a unique student body," Bob said. "They have that tradition of service. You can see it when you meet them."
That tradition is something the Packards have experienced many times over since their Baylor story began, both in the way they have served and in the ways students have served them in return.
His class was an institution - 'Packard Physics,' an introductory course for non-science majors. Generations of students, intimidated by the thought of a college science class, discovered that in the hands of a Master Teacher, the subject could actually be fun and memorable.
Years later, Dr. Packard's influence prompted his former students to establish the Robert G. and Joyce Hornaday Packard Endowed Scholars Fund. Despite the formal title, its recipients are known simply as "Packard Scholars."
"Students set up our scholarship when Bob retired," Joyce said. "We've not done anything that they didn't have a hand in in some way."
Bob and Joyce were moved to grow the fund through their own estate gift, opening the doors to even more students throughout all departments at Baylor.
"We've been able to contribute to it, and we hope we can help future students through the years," Bob said. "They are the leaders. They are really our future."
In fact, five decades ago -- and long before the scholars program -- it was these same Baylor students who played another big role in the Packards' lives when they conspired to bring them together for the first time.
The Professor Trap
"The students started telling me about a new physics professor," Joyce remembers. "I said, 'I don't want to meet him. He's different; he's smart.' But the students were planning."
Her girls would not be denied. One evening, Joyce received a call from the Dean of Women informing her that a chaperone had backed out of working an evening social.
"She was very formal and told me, 'I expect you to be there and be ready to go,'" Joyce remembered. "I said, 'Okay, I will.' She paused a moment and said, 'And furthermore, Dr. Packard will be the other sponsor." The arrangements had been made between the students and the sponsor! That was our first date. So the students arranged for us to meet." The evening went well enough for Bob to present her with a simple request.
"I asked her for a thousand dates," Bob laughed.
Soon, they were married on campus in Alexander Hall in a ceremony officiated by then-President of Baylor, W.R. White.
The story of how they met is just one example of why the Packards feel so strongly about Baylor students and why they feel called to give back and bless them as if they were their own children.
"They've been our life," Joyce said. "We hope they, in turn, will pass on what we have been doing for them, and I feel that they will, knowing Baylor students. This tradition of serving and giving to others will live on forever - the line never ceases."
A lifetime of service resulted in lifelong friendships, drawing countless students into the Packard family. And through a gift started by those students, and supported in perpetuity through an estate gift by the Packards themselves, even more will become a part of the Packard legacy at Baylor.