HOBY History

Since 1958, HOBY has empowered over 500,000 students to make lasting, positive change in their communities. Our founder, Hugh O’Brian, led a life of service and left a lasting legacy with HOBY.

HOBY was founded by Hugh O’Brian in 1958 as a nonprofit organization with the same mission we work toward today–to inspire a global community of youth and volunteers to a life dedicated to leadership, service, and innovation. For ten years, our flagship leadership seminars only took place in Los Angeles for sophomores from California. HOBY’s success led to an outstanding expansion in 1968 with the first-ever World Leadership Congress (formerly known as the International Leadership Seminar).

By 1977 Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island joined California in conducting State Leadership Seminars. By 1986, the HOBY Alumni Association initiated Community Leadership Workshops. HOBY attendees represented 51 percent of U.S. high schools and HOBY volunteers numbered 2,500 by 1988.

HOBY celebrated its 40th Anniversary in 1998 by launching a new initiative, Leadership for Service (L4S). L4S challenges all HOBY ambassadors to commit to 100 hours of community service in the year following their seminar. Since its inception, over 5,000,000 L4S hours have been logged, resulting in $149,483,504 in economic impact. Hugh’s belief in the potential of every human being and his commitment to empowering youth leaders 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.

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. Hugh’s interests and talents were always myriad–from being a multisport athlete in football, basketball, wrestling, and track, to pursuing a career in law, to becoming the youngest drill instructor in Marine Corps history–Hugh was one of a kind.

Hugh O’Brian’s acting career began inadvertently in 1947 while he was attending a play. 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. Hugh’s 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 lawman to life and sustained the show for seven consecutive years as one of the nation’s most-watched television programs.

At the peak of his acting career, Mr. O’Brian journeyed to Lambaréné, Gabon to spend nine days with Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Dr. Schweitzer instilled in Hugh a simple belief: “The most important thing in education is to teach young people to think for themselves.” Before Hugh 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). The format was simple: bring a group of high school sophomores with leadership potential together with a group of distinguished leaders in business, education, and government and let the two interact and grow together in a university environment. These young leaders got a realistic look at what it takes to positively impact a community, better enabling them “to think for themselves.”

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.

“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 [person] if given the opportunity and encouragement to recognize [their] 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 [that person] dare to dream the impossible dream?”

~ Hugh O’Brian | April 19, 1925 ~ September 5, 2016