OGDEN — He was a dashing young bomber pilot just back from World War II. She was the recently crowned queen of the Peach Festival in his hometown of Brigham City and was working at the circulation desk in the library of what is now Weber State University.
That is where they met — Boyd K. Packer and Donna Smith. Their meeting led to courtship that blossomed into marriage that summer.
Sixty-six years later, an education outreach center has been named in their honor at the university where they met in 1947.
The Boyd K and Donna S. Packer Center for Family and Community Education, part of the Moyes College of Education, was formally named Wednesday at a program and buffet dinner held in the Kimball Visual Arts Center Shaw gallery on the WSU campus. In attendance were family, friends and associates of the Packers, including several of his colleagues in the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — he presides over the quorum.
“Memories, memories, memories!” President Packer exclaimed in brief remarks to the crowd, just before the unveiling of a rendering and recognition signage for the center.
“We’re very honored by this,” he said, his wife at his side. “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.”
Elder Allan F. Packer, the couple’s eldest child and a member of the Seventy, gave remarks as a family representative.
“Both mom and dad have been focused on education, partly because of the choices in career, but because they felt strongly about the importance of education and about family,” he said.
He displayed a wooden doorknocker his father carved while the family was living in Boston in the late 1960s. Depicting the head and horns of an ox, it was the original from which replicas were cast from bronze that are given to family members as symbol of the Packer legacy.
It was inspired, he said, by a family story in which his grandparents, Ira and Emma Packer, participated in the 1947 centennial celebration of the Mormon pioneers’ settlement of Utah.
“They participated by taking their cars and fastening (wagon cover) hoops over the top and oxen that went on the sides. As they were about to leave to begin their trek, grandpa Packer grabbed the paint can and marked the initials on each of the two oxen: IWP and EJP for Emma Jensen Packer, and then made the statement that this was the best team that ever pulled together.”
That has become a legacy and motto for the family, he said, and as descendants are married, they are given one of the doorknockers and a plaque that tells the story of their ancestors.
A video was shown that highlighted the programs of the new center and that featured another son, David Packer, telling about his parents’ meeting at Weber College. His mother was on a music scholarship, played the violin, was president of the pep club, a sorority member and lettered in women’s basketball, he said.
“She was involved with many activities on campus, both educationally and socially,” 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.”
In remarks earlier in the program, college dean Jack L. Rasmussen gave examples of the positive impact of the eight community outreach programs that are now part of the new center.
“The programs are focused on support and education of children, students and families, and they do make a difference,” Rasmussen said. “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. We want to put in place the necessary funding and organization support to make this happen. The naming of the center with the accompanying endowment will provide the avenue to ensure that these goals are accomplished.”
Here is a list of the eight community outreach programs the new center will help administer and support:
Literacy Project prepares children from less-privileged backgrounds for success in school and life.
Teachers Assistant Pathway to Teaching assists public school volunteers and teacher assistants who have the desire and commitment to become fully licensed teachers.
Families Alive Conference champions the successes of everyday families in areas of communication, problem solving, teaching, advocacy and strengthening relationships.
Teachers of Tomorrow helps provide a bridge to college for high school students interested in teaching as a profession.
WSU Charter Academy, new this fall, will focus on educating the whole child using developmentally appropriate and research-supported curricula and instructional methods.
Storytelling Festival attracts national regional and student storytellers who engage listeners while promoting literacy, culture and the arts.
Melba S. Lehner Children’s School provides a setting for training university students in teaching young children.
Child Care Resource and Referral assists families to find quality care while helping caregivers provide the most nurturing environment possible for children.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company