Legendary Mentor Award: Joyce and Bob Packard

Awarded to individuals for outstanding teaching and mentorship that characterizes the Baylor experience

From guiding children, high school and college students to teaching television audiences and Sunday School classes at Columbus Ave. Baptist Church, Bob and Joyce Hornaday Packard of Waco have worked as a team to touch the lives of tens of thousands of young people both locally and around the world. The couple built a 60-year marriage, spending more than three-quarters of that time living and working on Baylor’s campus. They believe mentoring is two people learning from each other.

“Bob and I learn from every person with whom we come in contact,” says Joyce, a native of Fordyce, Ark. “Mentoring, to me, is a two-way street. Working in tourism in Waco today, very seldom do I give a tour or open up a historic home without learning a great deal from the person visiting.”

They owe their first date in 1953 to a blind date arranged, quite fittingly, by some of their Baylor students. It was shortly before the infamous Waco tornado. Bob jokes that they always had a “whirlwind romance” from the beginning, when he quickly asked Joyce for “one thousand more dates.”

They were married in Alexander Hall with Baylor President W.R. White presiding. The Packards teamed up to make Christmas decorations for several dormitories; they note that Bob, who still makes holiday wreaths for charity as a hobby, constructed a decoration showing Santa Claus on a rocket going to the moon. Their teamwork continued with such efforts as serving together in 1970 on a Foreign Missions Board team to visit colleges and universities in Asia in preparation for the Greater Asian Evangelistic Crusades.

Joyce’s volunteer activities have included the Waco Welcome Corps, Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau, Baylor Round Table, Baylor President’s Scholarship Initiative, Leadership Waco and Historic Waco Foundation, among others. Her time at Baylor has included serving two years as assistant dean of women and dean of women living in Alexander Hall. She was also a counselor at Waco’s Richfield High School for 23 years.

“Bob and I have been blessed beyond measure, and we just hope that we have been able to give back a part of what’s been given to us. Working with young people is a real privilege,” she says. “‘Giving is the basis of living,’ my mother used to tell me, ‘if you can’t do something for somebody every day, then it’s a lost day.’”

Bob Packard, a Temple, Texas, native, served in the military during World War II with stints in the Combat Engineers, Signal Corps and Intelligence. He earned three degrees at the University of Texas before joining the Baylor faculty in 1952.

The Baylor professor emeritus of physics and Master Teacher is known and recognized for his physics knowledge. He assisted the government of Indonesia in revamping its university physics program, and served as a visiting professor in numerous schools in Asia, as well as the University of Idaho, University of California, Columbia University and other institutions closer to home. He turned down many permanent employment opportunities in education and government to stay in Waco.

Beloved for his playful, engaging personality, Bob sometimes made use of a borrowed artificial eye “to keep an eye on students in class” and joked that he had a termite-filled wooden leg—one that would leave a tiny trail of sawdust as he walked.

Bob hosted a Waco television show called Atomic Age Physics, sponsored a televised academic challenge program, and also taught often at Paul Quinn College (formerly in Waco). He received a number of Baylor and national teaching awards, including Baylor’s Collins Outstanding Professor Award. In 2004, former students, alumni, family and friends of the Packards established an endowed scholarship in their honor.

Outside the classroom, he sponsored student organizations such as Taurus, Circle K and Kappa Omega Tau, which he helped design their award-winning Sing acts. He also served on Baylor’s Athletic Council for years and taught Sunday School classes at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church for decades.

Bob, now 90, formally retired from Baylor in 2002 following 50 years on the Baylor faculty. He returned to teach one class in 2009, and students scrambled to sign up for one last course with the Baylor legend.

Asked to note any differences in Baylor students from his first class to his last one, he says the students are, in spirit, the same—they still have a giving attitude.

“Baylor brings out in students the desire to help others,” he says. “Baylor students are outgoing, they are concerned, and they will volunteer. They are exactly what you would expect from a student.”

Bob says the epitome of that volunteer spirit was when some students asked him to sponsor a new campus organization, the nation’s first collegiate group for Habitat for Humanity.

In retirement, the Packards continue to be active in Waco serving as volunteers for various boards and committees. The couple has an exceptional fondness for the young visitors to Baylor’s Mayborn Museum, where they helped raise funds for its construction and still volunteer most Friday afternoons.

“Taking your children to the Mayborn Museum is absolutely the best education they can have. It’s five things in one, and each has a history on the campus,” says Bob, who loves that the museum is free to visitors on the first Sunday of each month, benefitting children who otherwise would not be able to enjoy it.

“The children are getting hands-on experience, and it never gets old because the activities are so varied,” he says.

Bob particularly enjoys catching up with former students who bring their children to the museum.

“I’m so happy because they teach their kids to come hug my neck,” he says.

The Packards often are asked for the secret to their successful marriage. Their response is, “Let God be your strength and comfort as you start each day. Expect something wonderful to happen and it will. Labor in God’s vineyard and you will be blessed with harvest beyond your wildest dreams.”

In their living room, Joyce keeps a Bible given to her by a former student in 1975. Its margins are filled with notes, prayers and sayings from their Baylor family.

“My favorite one is, ‘Keep alive in us, oh Lord, the beauties of the world, the joys of friendship, and the wonders of Your grace. Each day that we live, shape our lives so that we will be a blessing to our fellow man,’’’ Joyce says. “Our lives and most of our activities have been spent primarily at Baylor and in Waco. Having the chance to be involved with both has been a real blessing, and we hope that we can continue to be of service.”