Born in Warren, Ohio on November 5, 1863, Packard attended Lehigh University where he studied mechanical engineering. He was very skilled with mechanical and electrical systems, so skilled that while living in his dorm in Saucon hall, he created a switch that was wired to his door and alarm clock to make dorm life more convenient.
Packard graduated Lehigh University in 1884 with a mechanical engineering degree. In 1889, Packard filed for a patent for his Packard Electric Lamp. Soon after, Packard and his brother created the Packard Electric Company, which manufactured electric light bulbs. In November of 1899, Packard built is first Packard automobile, which was known as the “Ohio Model A”. After opening a factory in Detroit, Michigan, the Packard car was widely known and had a reputation for being the most luxurious car in America. From the success of his car manufacturing business known as The Packard Motor Car Company, Packard gave a $1.2 million gift to Lehigh University. The gift funded the creation of Packard Lab in 1929, which is the home to the Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science. Inside the Lab, inscribed on a plaque in the main lobby are the words: “In partial repayment of my debt to my alma mater” said by Packard after announcing his gift of $1.2 million. The “Ohio Model A” car was also donated to the University and is on display in the lobby of the Packard Lab as well.