HOBY was founded by Hugh O’Brian in 1958 as a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire a global community of youth and volunteers to a life dedicated to leadership, service, and innovation. From 1958 to 1967, leadership seminars only took place in Los Angeles for High School sophomores from California. The success of the program over the first 10 years resulted in the expansion of the scope of the HOBY program. In 1968, seminars included international as well as national participants, and the leadership seminars moved to major cities across the United States on an annual basis.
In 1972, in keeping with the changing times of the growing women’s movement, young women were invited to attend HOBY seminars. In 1977 Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island are the first to hold State Leadership seminars. In 1986 the HOBY Alumni Association initiated Community Leadership Workshops, one-day local leadership training workshops. By 1988 10,676 high school sophomores, representing 51 percent of U.S. high schools, participated in State Leadership Seminars; HOBY volunteers numbered 2,500.
In 1990, the International Leadership Seminar was renamed the World Leadership Congress, and 28 countries sent students representatives for an eight-day global leadership summit. By 1998, HOBY celebrated its 40th Anniversary and launched a new initiative, Leadership for Service, challenging all HOBY ambassadors to commit to 100 hours of community service. Twenty pilot sites were given the community service challenge resulting in 345 ambassadors accomplishing more than 24,000 volunteer hours in 850 community service projects. Hugh’s belief in the potential of every human being and his commitment to helping the youth of the world become major contributors to society is his legacy. Today more than 500,000 HOBY alumni around the world are making a difference in the lives of others, thanks to the vision and passion of Hugh O’Brian
Hugh O’Brian was born Hugh Charles Krampe on April 19, 1925, in Rochester, New York, to United States Marine Corps officer Hugh John Krampe and his wife, Edith. O’Brian attended New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, and Kemper Military School in Booneville, Missouri, where he was a multisport star in football, basketball, wrestling, and track. After graduating high school, O’Brian enrolled at the University of Cincinnati to pursue a career in law. After only one semester, at the age of 17, he left the university and enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War II. He became the youngest drill instructor in Marine Corps history.
Hugh O’Brian’s acting career began inadvertently in 1947 while he was attending a performance of Somerset Maugham’s play Home and Beauty. The leading actor fell ill and O’Brian agreed to take his place on stage. Inspired by great reviews, he decided to pursue a career on stage, which led to his first contract with Universal Studios.
After three years, O’Brian left Universal to guest star in numerous television shows and films such as Broken Lance and There’s No Business Like Show Business. His breakthrough came in 1955 when he was chosen to portray lawman Wyatt Earp in The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. O’Brian’s charisma and talent brought the oversized-pistol–toting lawman to life and launched the show to seven consecutive years as one of the nation’s top 10 most-watched television programs.
O’Brian continued to appear in countless screen and Broadway projects. On television, he made guest appearances in series such as Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, and Charlie’s Angels. On Broadway, he starred in Destry Rides Again, First Love, and The Odd Couple. O’Brian’s film career lasted for decades, including his 1976 appearance in The Shootist—John Wayne’s final film—the 1988 appearance in Twins co-starring alongside Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his 1994 cameo appearance in Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone.
At the peak of his acting career, O’Brian journeyed to Lambaréné, Gabon in Africa to spend nine days with Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Dr. Schweitzer instilled in him a simple belief: “The most important thing in education is to teach young people to think for themselves.” Before O’Brian left Africa, Dr. Schweitzer grabbed his hand and asked him about his experience: “What are you going to do with all of this?”
O’Brian returned to the United States resolved to put Dr. Schweitzer’s words into action. In 1958, he founded Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY). He imagined an organization whose mission would be to inspire a global community of youth and volunteers to a life dedicated to leadership, service, and innovation.
Hugh O’Brian believed in the potential of every human being and was committed to helping young people of the world become major contributors to society. His legacy lives on today, with more than 500,000 HOBY alumni making a difference in the lives of others, thanks to the vision and passion of HOBY’s founder.
On June 25, 2006, at the age of 81, O’Brian married his longtime partner, Virginia Stumpf, and he passed away with Virginia at his side on September 5, 2016. O’Brian led a life of service and left a lasting legacy with HOBY, an organization that will continue his dream of helping youth reach their potential as leaders.
In 1958, Mr. O’Brian was privileged to spend nine inspirational days with the great humanitarian and 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Albert Schweitzer at his clinic in the town of Lambaréné, Gabon in Africa. Dr. Schweitzer’s strong belief that “the most important thing in education is to teach young people to think for themselves” impressed O’Brian. Upon his return to the United States, he put Schweitzer’s words into action by forming Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), a nonprofit organization.
The format was simple: bring a select group of high school sophomores with demonstrated leadership abilities together with a group of distinguished leaders in business, education, and government and let the two interact using a question-and-answer format. The young people selected to attend a HOBY Leadership Seminar held each spring in their state got a realistic look at what it takes to be a true leader, better enabling them “to think for themselves.”
“I believe every person is created as the steward of his or her own destiny with great power for a specific purpose: to share with others, through service, a reverence for life in a spirit of love.”
~ Hugh O’Brian