David Packard: The Independent Institute

The Power of Independent Thinking

David Packard
David Packard

David Packard (1912–1996) was Co-founder of Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) and the author of the book, The HP Way: How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company. In September 1993, he retired as Chairman of the Board and was named Chairman Emeritus. He served in that position until his death on March 26, 1996.

Packard was born Sept. 7, 1912, in Pueblo, Colo. He attended Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., and received a bachelor of arts degree in 1934 and a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1939.

From 1936 to 1938, Packard was an engineer with the General Electric Co. in Schenectady, N.Y. In 1938, he returned to Palo Alto and the following year formed a partnership known as Hewlett-Packard Company with William R. Hewlett, a friend and Stanford classmate.

HP’s first product was a resistance-capacitance audio oscillator based on a design developed by Hewlett when he was in graduate school. The company’s first “plant” was a small garage in Palo Alto, and the initial capital amounted to $538. Packard served as a partner in the company from its founding in 1939 until it was incorporated in 1947. In 1947, he became President, a post he held until 1964, when he was elected Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer.

Packard left the company in 1969 to become U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense in the first Nixon administration. He served in this capacity for almost three years and resigned his post in 1971. When he returned to California, he was re-elected Chairman of the Board of HP.

Over the years, Packard was active in a number of professional, educational, civic and business organizations. He was a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a lifetime member of the Instrument Society of America. He also was a Co-founder and past Chairman of the American Electronics Association.

Until his death, Packard had been President and Chairman of The David and Lucile Packard Foundation since it began in 1964. This organization supports universities, national institutions, community groups, youth agencies, family planning centers and hospitals that are dependent on private funding and volunteer leadership.

Packard also played a prominent role in establishing the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a $55 million philanthropic project of the Packard family. He was Chairman of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation, and Chairman and President of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

Packard was a Trustee of the Herbert Hoover Foundation, American Enterprise Institute and Hoover Institution. He was Vice Chairman of the California Nature Conservancy in 1983, and from 1983 to 1989, served as a Director of the Wolf Trap Foundation, Vienna, Va., an organization devoted to the performing arts.

In 1985, Packard was appointed by former President Reagan to chair the Blue Ribbon Commission on Defense Management. He also was a Member of The Trilateral Commission from 1973 to 1981. From 1975 to 1982, he was a Member of the US-USSR Trade & Economic Council’s committee on science and technology, and he chaired the U.S.-Japan Advisory Commission from 1983 to 1985. He also was a Member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology from 1990 to 1992.

Packard was active in the Business Roundtable and was founding Vice Chairman of the California Roundtable. He also was a Director of several business organizations, including Boeing Co., Caterpillar Tractor, Chevron Corp., and Genentech Inc. At the time of his death, he was a Director of Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic.

Packard held honorary degrees of doctor of science from Colorado College; doctor of law from the University of California, Catholic University, and Pepperdine University; doctor of letters, Southern Colorado State College; and doctor of engineering, University of Notre Dame.