Richard (Rick) Packer credits his time at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and the Rensselaer Society of Engineers (RSE) for teaching him valuable life skills that have served him well in his career, in addition to the stellar education he received.

Packer graduated from RPI with a bachelor’s degree in management engineering (since renamed industrial and systems engineering) in 1979, followed by a master’s in information systems in 1980. Thanks to RPI’s professional program that allowed him to start taking classes toward his masters as a junior and senior, Packer was able to achieve both his bachelor’s and his master’s degrees in just five years.

When Packer pledged at RSE his freshman year his motivations were both academic and social. He was drawn to the unique focus that RSE put on academics in addition to socialization, unlike many of the other fraternities on campus. RSE drew many diverse personalities for that reason, making it a great place to interact with a variety of fellow students.

“It seemed like a great place to make friends and maximize my time at RPI,” Packer says. 

A Notable Career

Upon graduation, Packer had certainly gained the academic and social growth he was looking for, and it launched him into a fabulous career. Packer entered the work force for a few years before returning to New England where he obtained his master of business administration (MBA) from Harvard Business School. From there he spent time consulting in Massachusetts and working with defense contractors in Los Angeles before landing at ZOLL in 1992. Packer has been at ZOLL ever since. He currently resides in Boston and serves as chairman of ZOLL and as executive officer of Asahi Kasei’s Health Care Business Unit. His former positions include chief executive officer, president, chief financial officer and vice president of operations.

Problem Solving, Leadership and Hard Work

With such an extensive business background, Packer can retroactively see the benefits to various skills he honed at RPI and RSE.

“Being an engineer you learn to solve problems. You can take them apart, compartmentalize and figure things out,” Packer says. “As I’ve gone through my career in technology companies surrounded by engineers, you can really tell the people that have that background and those who don’t… RPI guys are people who are going to get stuff done.”

RSE specifically taught Packer about leadership and dealing with different personalities. He served as treasurer his junior and senior year. The position taught practical financial skills and also helped show him how to lead.

“I was in leadership positions, and learning to deal with many personalities was immensely helpful as I moved into management through my career and attempted to become a strong leader of a business,” Packer says.

Packer served as treasurer during a financially trying time in the fraternity. He learned the difficulty of changing something that has always been done a certain way. Packer admits he had his stumbles along the way, and ultimately learned a valuable lesson.

“It taught me about how to lay the groundwork if you’re going to change an organization. Just a fancy title won’t get you there, you have to do it from the ground level,” Packer says.

Finally, because of RSE’s unique structure, which doesn’t have a national society behind them, the tasks of the house fell to the members. This resulted in a lot of work days with responsibilities on the members to get things done that needed fixed or dealt with around the house – something Packer counts as a tremendous benefit to building work ethic and responsibility as well.

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