``The most important thing about my career,'' says multimillionaire David Packard, co-founder of the Hewlett-Packard Company, is that ``I decided I wanted to be an engineer when I was about 10 years old and never changed [my mind].'' Raised in Colorado and educated at Stanford University, Packard recalls doing an undergraduate independent study course on the history of the westward movement across America. ``I remember thinking at the time,'' he chuckles, ``that I was born too late, that I missed all the opportunties.''
He was clearly wrong. With college classmate William R. Hewlett and $538 in capital, he began tinkering in his garage in California, inventing such things as an electronic harmonica tuner and a bowling alley foul-line indicator. When Walt Disney ordered eight audio-oscillators for the sound track of ``Fantasia,'' the company that would become the world's largest producer of electronic measuring instruments and a major computer manufacturer was off and running.
In 1969 Packard, a Republican, joined the Nixon administration as deputy secretary of defense, a position he held until 1971. Giving heavily of his time to public-service activities, he has been a member of the Palo Alto School Board, held numerous academic trusteeships, and been showered with awards by organizations ranging all the way from the Electronic Industries Association to the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Boy Scouts.
He has recently chaired two committees convened by the Reagan administration: the so-called Packard Commission, which released its report on the nation's defense management last February, and a panel of the White House Science Council which reported on the health of the nation's colleges and universities.