NATCHITOCHES – Inspired by an important mentor and their love for Northwestern State University, a Natchitoches couple established a scholarship through the NSU Foundation that will give preference to a student from Anacoco High School majoring in early childhood education.
Hyland and Sophie Packard began creating the scholarship in 2019 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in memory of Curtis Bradshaw, a former principal at Anacoco. Eligible recipients of the one-year scholarship are incoming freshmen with a 3.0 grade point average.
The Packard family is known in the Natchitoches community for service through ministry and volunteer efforts. Mr. Packard passed away Feb. 5 at the age of 92.
Mrs. Packard said Bradshaw, a childhood friend of her father, was her principal from the time she began school at age 5 until she graduated as salutatorian of her class at Anacoco. He was later superintendent of schools in Vernon Parish.
“He is responsible for me coming to Northwestern,” she said. Of the six children in her family, she was the first to go to NSU. She later sent her younger sister to NSU. “Northwestern has been wonderful to me.”
Bradshaw earned a 2-year teaching certificate at Louisiana State Normal, as NSU was then known, in 1936. His wife was Mrs. Packard’s home economics teacher. She said Bradshaw encouraged many other students to attend Northwestern and helped her obtain a student job in the library with the late Eugene P. Watson, the longtime campus librarian for whom NSU’s current library is named.
Hyland Packard graduated from Melville High School and enrolled at NSU in 1946. A U.S. Naval officer, he served on the USS Achernar (AKA-53) and the USS Goodrich (DD-831) during the Korean Conflict, also serving as chaplain on both ships. After service in the Navy, he returned to NSU to finish his education degree.
Hyland and Sophie met at the Baptist Student Union where she was freshman president. The couple married in 1955. Mr. Packard began teaching chemistry and physics at Fair Park High School in Shreveport and commuted to NSU on Saturdays for four years to earn his master’s degree. He taught at Port Sulphur and Melville before returning to Natchitoches where he taught chemistry and mentored student teachers. After his retirement in 1986 he attended New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and was ordained as a minister at Anthony Baptist Church, which he pastored for over 10 years.
Sophie Packard completed her degree in reading and early childhood education at Northwestern in 1962 and worked with Mary Lee Posey and Marie Shaw Dunn in what is now NSU’s Child Development Center during the era in which kindergartens were being developed for the parish schools. She taught kindergarten and first grade for many years and attended the Gesell Institute of Child Development in New Haven, Connecticut, to become a certified evaluator of children.
Community service was a lifestyle for the Packards. When he was pastoring at a rural church, she played piano for services. They enjoyed volunteering with Lov’N Care Mission, providing supplemental and emergency food and clothing for those in need, and with the Lion’s Club. Mr. Packard was also chaplain and chairman of the Honesty and Integrity Committee for the Masonic Lodge No. 13, and Order of the Eastern Star. Mrs. Packard was her husband’s caregiver the last two years of his life.
The scholarship for an Anacoco student is not necessarily meant for the school’s top student.
“We decided that the kids at the top of the class would be getting a lot of scholarships already, so we decided to look at kids who were not the top of the class and who may have needs,” she explained.
The Packards were also motivated to create the scholarship because of their family’s love for NSU.
“My heart just swells because Northwestern has been good to me and my family,” she said.