David Packard, 1912-1996

Stanford engineer David Packard began a backyard business with William Hewlett that became one of the 20th century's biggest multinational corporations. Considered a founding father of Silicon Valley, the co-founder of Hewlett-Packard and renowned philanthropist David Packard died on March 26th, 1996.

Born September 7th, 1912 in Pueblo, Colorado, David Packard was the son of an attorney and a Pueblo high school teacher. A lanky standout athlete who once considered a career in basketball, Packard was pushed toward law school by his parents through his high school years, but enrolled at California's Stanford University as an engineering major. Working his way through school during the Depression, Packard took on a number of jobs, including a stint as a food service worker on campus. Packard's kitchen job introduced him to Stanford coed Lucile Salter, his future wife, while his engineering classes introduced him to William Hewlett, a doctor's son from California. Packard and Hewlett were taken under the wing of engineering professor Frederick Terman, who encouraged his star pupils in their projects and exploration of electronic device production.

Packard graduated Stanford, married his college sweetheart and relocated to Schenectady New York and a junior management position at General Electric. When Terman was able to provide his former students fellowships to pursue masters degrees at Stanford, Packard and Hewlett returned to the university in the mid 1930s. Packard pursued his degree while working within the university, his wife Lucile taking employment as a secretary in the registrar's office to help pay rental on a modest home in nearby Palo Alto. The Packards occupied half of a house on Addison Avenue, extending use of a bachelor's quarters to William Hewlett, and converting their single-bay garage to a workshop.

Packard and Hewlett both earned their masters degrees in 1938, and with the moral and financial support of Terman, launched their business partnership on New Year's Day 1939. While a coin toss made Bill Hewlett the first named partner in their venture, Helwett-Packard Co., David Packard was the pair's management leader. With a total of $538 in start-up capital, the pair released their first product, a sound oscillator Packard named the HP200B, lending the impression that the device was one of many produced by a larger company. Packard secured their first order- 8 of the HP200Bs at $72 a piece- commissioned by the Walt Disney Studios for use in completing the soundtrack to the Disney masterpiece "Fantasia".

Packard managed the fledgling electronics company from its first days in the garage workshop of Addison Avenue through its rise as the hub of the Silicon Valley electronics and computer industry. While Hewlett's career as a device developer and inventor was interrupted by military service during World War II and concultancy to the US agency monitoring industry in Japan, David Packard stood the helm at HP, a major supplier of devices and components for the American defense industry. By 1948, Packard's company had grown from a 2-man garage operation to a $1.5 million corporation with more than 1,000 employees.

The founders of Hewlett-Packard divided their realms to their areas of expertise: Hewlett haunted the labs and workshops of HP, while Packard created a management and employment system unique in American industry. Known as "The HP Way", the Packard management system became widely emulated throughout the US, and established many of the corporate practices now taken for granted, from profit sharing to maternity leaves and extension of catastrophic illness coverage and job protection. As corporate president and then CEO and chairman of the board, Packard created a literal and figurative "open environment" (work areas featured open work spaces and few, if any, office doors, enhancing accessibility) for his "corporate family". Packard offered continuing education benefits for his employees, as well as day care programs and job sharing for working mothers, and an across levels profit sharing plan based on production returns. While Packard made sure employees benefited during the company's successes, during lean years he implemented hiring freezes, wage freezes and across the board pay cuts during recessions, as an alternative to job cuts or layoffs.

Packard's interest in public welfare extended beyond the realm of Hewlett-Packard, and from 1964 Packard served as the head of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, a philanthropic organization funding a wide array of health, research and environmental causes. Packard also joined with Hewlett in donating more than $300 million to their alma mater, Stanford, where they founded the Frederick Terman Memorial Fellowship. Packard oversaw the development of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Research Institute, and in addition to the Packard Foundation, which rose to status as one of the largest private philanthropic organizations in the country, served as trustee of the Herbert Hoover Foundation, the Hoover Institution, and the American Enterprise Institute. Packard also served as Vice Chairman of the California Nature Conservancy, and as the director of the Wolf Trap Foundation for Performing Arts through most of the 1980s.

Packard interrupted his duties as HP president to serve from 1969 until his resignation in 1971 as the Deputy Secretary of Defense for President Richard Nixon. At various times, Packard returned to Washington as a consultant or on the panels of a number of government committees. He served as a leader of the Blue Ribbon Commission of Defense Management (1985), as part of the Trilateral Commission (1973-81) and on the United States-Soviet Union Trade and Economic Council Committee on Science and Technology. Packard also was appointed to the Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (1990-92).

As an active member of many directorial boards and civic and business organizations, David Packard accrued many honors and awards for contributions to business, science and engineering, as well as honorary doctorates from lauded universities. Packard's doctorates included honors from the University of California, the University of Notre Dame, and Pepperdine University. For his philanthropic works, Packard received the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Before his death, David Packard's old Palo Alto home at 367 Addison Avenue- and its famed garage- were placed on the California registry of historic places, and is preserved as "The Birthplace of Silicon Valley". David Packard died on March 26th, 1996, not far from that small, Depression-era home, in Stanford, California, at the age of 83. Preceded in death by his wife, Lucile Salter Packard in 1987, David Packard was survived at his death by his four children and his long time partner and friend, William Hewlett.


If you would like to learn more about David Packard and his works we recommend:

The HP Way: How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company (by David Packard)

Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance

Champions of Silicon Valley: Visionary Thinking from Today's Technology Pioneers

A Field Guide to the Monterey Bay Aquarium