President Boyd K. Packer in 1947 was a pilot just home from World War II when he met Donna Smith at Weber College in Ogden, Utah. The peach festival queen from his hometown of Brigham City, she was working at the circulation desk of the college library. They struck up a conversation that led to romance and eventual marriage that summer.
Attending on a music scholarship as a violinist, she would distinguish herself by presiding over the pep club and lettering in women’s basketball. He would go on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Utah State University in Logan and a doctorate in educational administration from BYU before becoming a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, over which he now presides.
Now, 66 years after their meeting in the campus library, what today is Weber State University has named a community outreach center after President and Sister Packer.
The Boyd K. and Donna S. Packer Center for Family and Community Education was formally named during a program and dinner on the university campus May 8. It was attended by Packer family members, friends and associates and by university administration, faculty and staff.
The center will help administer and support eight education programs that strengthen the community and families, including a literacy project, a program for public school volunteers and teaching assistants to help them become licensed teachers, a “Families Alive” conference, a support program for high school students who want to become teachers, an academy focusing on educating children, a storytelling festival that promotes literacy and the arts, a school that provides a setting for training university students in teaching young children and a child resource and referral service.
“Memories, memories, memories!” President Packer exclaimed in very brief and informal remarks at the gathering, Sister Packer seated at his side. “We’re very honored by this. Our memories of Weber College are very happy. We’re happy to have the family here with us. We pray the blessings of the Lord upon them, upon Weber College and upon this new institution.”
Addressing the group as a family representative was Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy, the eldest of President and Sister Packer’s 10 children.
Elder Packer displayed a wooden ox-head door knocker his father had carved when the family was living in Boston, Mass., in the late 1960s. From it, bronze casts have been made.
His grandfather Ira Packer once said of himself and his wife, Emma, that they were “the best team that ever pulled together.” That has become a motto for the family, Elder Packer said, and as descendants are married, they are given one of the bronze casts and a plaque that tells the story of their Packer forebears.
Elder Packer quoted from remarks given by President Packer in 1983 when he spoke at the graduation ceremony at Weber State. In that commencement talk, President Packer said: “Regardless of what your transcript of credit may say, one part of your education may have been neglected, leaving you developed only to a grade-school level. Now that you are graduating, you would do well to concentrate on those things that are scarcely touched on in universities in our day. For instance, you who have studied chemistry can mix a complicated formula without blowing up the chemistry lab, but have you learned to blend the ingredients of as happy marriage without having it blow up in your face? You who have studied language can now construct a proper sentence and convey even the finest shades of meaning. But will you have the ability to use that to sell unwitting customers something that they neither need nor can afford, or will you promise without quite saying so great returns on investments that are actually worthless? You who have studied accounting can keep complicated ledgers of principles of interest and increase, but do you intend to pay back your student loan?”
A video was shown that highlighted programs of the new center and featured another son, David Packer, telling of his parents’ meeting at Weber College. Of his mother’s education at the school, he said, “It was an enriching experience to broaden her horizons to see things she had not experienced previously. Our family hopes this new center is a great opportunity for individuals to participate in things that they have not done before and that they can grow and fulfill their dreams in ways they didn’t envision when they entered the program. If individuals will take advantage of those opportunities, there is no limit to what they can accomplish.”
Earlier in the program, Jack L. Rasmussen, dean of the Moyes College of Education at the university, gave examples of the positive impact of the eight community programs. “Now, as we look to the future, we want to make sure that these programs continue, that they flourish, grow and evolve with the changing needs of those that we seek to nurture.”
University president Charles A. Wright said the new center will help the university in its three-core mission of access, learning and community.
Alan E. Hall, chairman of the university board of trustees, introduced his wife, Jeanne, and asked her to tell of the experience she had as they were in the Brigham City Utah Temple. They had been approached by the university to help fund the center.
“I received a very distinct prompting that Alan and I would not only be able to but would help fund this center,” she said, and added tearfully to the Packers, “We as a family feel very grateful that the Lord has provided a way for us to have your names associated with this university forever. We thank you for allowing your names to be here and the great values you stand for to influence the lives of our students of our community and especially this university.”