The HOBY Story
In the summer of 1958, actor Hugh O’Brian received the invitation that would change his life. O’Brian, then 33, was in Winnipeg, Manitoba, parlaying his fame as television’s legendary Wyatt Earp into extra income by guest-starring in a rodeo. Then the cable arrived from French Equatorial Africa: renowned humanitarian and 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Albert Schweitzer would welcome him at any time.
O’Brian had long admired the German doctor-missionary-theologian-musician. “I’d read so much about him,” he recalls. “He was a great humanitarian who could have done anything he wanted in the world, and there he was in the middle of Africa taking care of people.” Within two weeks O’Brian was on his way, by commercial airliner, bush plane and canoe, to the famed hospital that Schweitzer had founded on the banks of the Ogooue River in Lambarene. The actor spent nine days at the clinic where Schweitzer and volunteer doctors and nurses, working without electricity or running water, cared for patients, including many with leprosy.
The doctor was impressed that the young American had taken the trouble to visit him. He shared stories and life lessons with O’Brian each evening. Schweitzer, then 83, was concerned about global peace prospects and was convinced that the United States should take a leadership role in achieving peace. He impressed upon the young O’Brian the urgency for change and how education must teach young people to think for themselves. It was an unforgettable nine days. And, as O’Brian departed, Schweitzer took his hand and asked, “Hugh, what are you going to do with this?” Two weeks after returning from his 1958 meeting with Schweitzer, O’Brian put together a prototype seminar for young leaders — HOBY. And the rest is living history.
To inspire and develop our global community of youth and volunteers to a life dedicated to leadership, service and innovation.
To motivate and empower individuals to make a positive difference within our global society, through understanding and action, based on effective and compassionate leadership.
Volunteerism – Volunteerism is the heart and soul of our organization. We appreciate the myriad contributions of our volunteers, and recognize the power of thank you and of giving back. We seek to promote and encourage service among our stakeholders. We recognize and value the positive accomplishments that volunteers can achieve by working together. We believe that our programs positively impact volunteers as much as the youth and communities we serve.
Integrity – Integrity forms the foundation of our organization. We demand the highest level of ethics. We grow our organization based on interactions that promote mutual trustand respect with our stakeholders and partners. We strive toensure the highest level of organizational effectiveness by continually reviewing our programs and processes to improve quality and efficiency.
Excellence – We strive to continually raise our programs and business to new levels of excellence. We encourage entrepreneurship and innovation in business, education, and social responsibility. We develop creative solutions to address challenges and to utilize opportunities. We believe that leadership skills can and should be continually improved and refined.
Diversity – We value and embrace diversity. We seek outviews that reflect all walks of life, and reflect those views in our programs. We are sensitive to the special needs and diverse backgrounds of individuals. We give all individuals an equal opportunity to be heard and to benefit from our programs.
Community Partnership – We value community partnerships. We recognize the importance of working with community organizations to strengthen our supportive network. We value the input we receive from our community partners, and strive to work together cooperatively and constructively for the betterment of all.
ABOUT 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 a nonprofit organization whose mission would be to inspire a global community of youth and volunteers to a life dedicated to leadership, service, and innovation.
From 1958 TO 1967, leadership seminars took place only in Los Angeles for sophomores from California. The success of the program over those first 10 years led to an expanded scope for HOBY. In 1968, seminars included international as well as national participants, and the annual leadership seminars moved to major cities across the United States. In 1972, in keeping with the changing times of the growing women’s movement, young women were invited to attend HOBY seminars. In 1977, the first State Leadership Seminars were held in Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. In 1986, the HOBY Alumni Association initiated Community Leadership Workshops, one-day local leadership training sessions. By 1988, 10,676 high school sophomores, representing 51 percent of U.S. high schools, had participated in State Leadership Seminars, and HOBY volunteers numbered over 2,500.
In 1990, the International Leadership Seminar was renamed the World Leadership Congress, and 28 countries sent student representatives for an eight-day global leadership summit. In 1998, HOBY celebrated its 40th anniversary and launched a new initiative, Leadership for Service, that challenged all HOBY ambassadors to commit to 100 hours of community service annually. 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 O’Brian believed in the potential of every human being and was committed to helping the youth 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.
“I do NOT believe we are all born equal — CREATED equal in the eyes of God, YES — but physical and emotional differences, parental guidance, varying environments, being in the right place at the right time, all play a role in enhancing or limiting an individual's development. But I DO believe every man and woman, if given the opportunity and encouragement to recognize his or her own potential, regardless of background, has the Freedom To Choose in our world. Will an individual be a taker or a giver in life? Will that person be satisfied merely to exist, or seek a meaningful purpose? Will he or she dare to dream the impossible dream?”
~ Hugh O'Brian | April 19, 1925 ~ September 5, 2016