Obituary: Robert G. Packard

Robert G. Packard, longtime professor of physics at Baylor University who was dubbed “Waco’s Mr. Wizard” by one newspaper, died Jan. 5 in Waco. He was 94.

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Robert G. Packard, longtime professor of physics at Baylor University who was dubbed “Waco’s Mr. Wizard” by one newspaper, died Jan. 5 in Waco. He was 94. He was born in Regina, N.M., but moved to Temple with his family when he was 2 years old. After he graduated from Temple High School in 1943, Packard 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 United States and enrolling at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned his undergraduate degree, master’s degree and doctorate in physics. He spent several years during the early Cold War working on high-level national security and defense research at UT and teaching undergraduate courses in physics there. In September 1952, he received an invitation to teach physics at Baylor University, where he met and married Joyce Hornaday, the university’s assistant dean of women at Baylor. Packard taught nearly six decades at Baylor, where he was renowned for his popular “Packard Physics” class—an auditorium-style introductory course for non-science majors taken by nearly a quarter of Baylor alumni, according to some estimates. He served as a lecturer and visiting professor at numerous institutions. He also hosted a Waco television show called “Atomic Age Physics,” sponsored a televised academic challenge program and, at the request of the late Baylor President Abner McCall, taught in the late 1950s and the late 1960s at Paul Quinn College, when the campus was located in Waco. From 1960 to 1962, he taught physics in Indonesia with a medical team from the University of California and led a Sunday school class at a local Baptist mission. In 1990, he was designated as a Master Teacher, the highest honor granted to Baylor faculty members for sustained excellence in teaching. That same year, his longtime classroom in the Marrs McLean Building was renovated and renamed the Robert G. Packard Lecture Hall in his honor. In 2000, he received the W.R. White Meritorious Award for service to Baylor. He also received the Collins Outstanding Professor Award in 2001 and the Baylor Legacy Mentor Award in 2014, among other honors. He was a founding sponsor of the Baylor chapter for Habitat for Humanity, and he taught Sunday school classes at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church for decades. He is survived by his wife of more than 60 years; three brothers—Charles, Wayne and I.B. Packard; and numerous nieces and nephews.


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