HOBY’s History & Legacy
What is HOBY?
Founded in 1958 by actor and philanthropist Hugh O’Brian, HOBY’s mission is to inspire and develop our global community of youth and volunteers to a life dedicated to leadership, service and innovation. HOBY programs are conducted annually throughout the United States, serving local and international high school students. HOBY programs provide students selected by their schools to participate in unique leadership training, community service, and motivational experiences.
HOBY also provides adults with opportunities to make a significant impact on the lives of youth by volunteering. Over 4,000 committed HOBY volunteers plan and execute the programs each year, serving both at the local HOBY affiliate level and on HOBY’s Board of Trustees. Due to the selfless efforts of volunteers and the contributions of generous donors, nearly 10,000 students participate in HOBY programs annually.
Today, over 375,000 proud alumni make HOBY stronger than ever. HOBY alumni are leaders in their schools and communities, throughout the United States and the world, making a difference for others through service. Want to see the impact of HOBY firsthand? Get involved as a student, school, parent, alumna/us, volunteer or supporter.
Suzann Owings, LSC
2013-15 Corporate Board:
Frank Frederick, President
Vincent Thomé, VP (’14-’15)
Erlinda Hourigan, Treasurer
Rebecca Davis, Secretary
Rebuilding HOBY New Mexico
After almost thirty years running a successful high school leadership program, HOBY New Mexico went dormant in our state in 2011. In 2012, several club members of Optimist International in Albuquerque began to resurrect the organization and restore the seminar program. Under the leadership of Suzann Owings, several members from Route 66, Northwest, and Old Town Optimists began to rebuild HOBY New Mexico.
Working in collaboration with Optimists of El Paso, this pioneering team hosted 20 New Mexico schools and registered 22 Ambassadors to attend the HOBY West Texas seminar in 2013. The leadership then formed the HOBY NM Corporate Board and began planning New Mexico’s triumphant return for 2014.
HOBY New Mexico’s 2014 Leadership Seminar was hosted at University of New Mexico, May 30-June 2, 2014 with 32 schools 42 Ambassadors representing. In 2015 our seminar hosted 39 schools and 58 Ambassadors. In 2016 our seminar hosted 31 schools and 64 Ambassadors
HOBY International recognized the New Mexico program in 2014 and 2015 with several awards for program growth and outstanding leadership. Several HOBY Alumni and new volunteers are now planning the 2017 Leadership Seminar. The legacy continues…
The HOBY Story
Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) has worked diligently at helping young people make a difference and become positive catalysts for change – in the home, school, workplace, and community. As the nation’s premier nonprofit youth leadership development organization, HOBY is respected worldwide.
Beginnings in an African Jungle
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 reflects. “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 he was on his way, by commercial airliner, bush plane and canoe, to the famed hospital that Schweitzer had founded in 1913 on the banks of the Ogooue River in Lambarene.
The actor spent nine days at the clinic complex 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's Message to Hugh
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.
As O’Brian departed, Schweitzer took his hand, looked deep into his eyes, 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.
By the Numbers
Twenty-six student Ambassadors participated in the very first HOBY leadership seminar. Now, more than five decades later, there are more than 435,000 Alumni that are part of the HOBY legacy.
Each year, more than 12,000 students attend HOBY Leadership programs from across the U.S. and around the world.
Our Ambassadors represent more than 7,200 U.S. high schools.
There are approximately 70 State Leadership Seminars each spring across the country.
More than 4,000 committed HOBY volunteers plan, fundraise, and help to produce the programs each year. 65% of volunteers are HOBY Alumni.
HOBY’s total paid staff is 13 full-time equivalents.
Since inception, HOBY Alumni have logged more than 3 million hours of service.
Through the Years
1958 - 1967: Leadership Seminars took place annually in Los Angeles for sophomores throughout California.
1968: The scope of the HOBY program grew to include national and international participants, which led to the expanded week- long international leadership seminar, now called the World Leadership Congress (WLC). The WLC is held annually in different major cities across the United States.
1977: In an effort to include more students nationwide, three- and four-day State Leadership Seminars (LS) were instituted, with Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island being the first to conduct HOBY Leadership Seminars.
1982: Within five short years, State Leadership Seminars were being conducted annually in all 50 United States with the help of many partner civic organizations.
1991: HOBY extended its reached and started a one-day leadership program called Community Leadership Workshops (CLeWs). These workshops, now held for high school freshmen, allow schools to select many students to participate.
1997: To secure its commitment to local communities, HOBY began Leadership for Service (L4S), which challenged HOBY Ambassadors to volunteer a minimum of 100 hours in their community.
2011: HOBY went global and revitalized its International Tours program, which allowed HOBY Alumni to visit and experience the cultures of other countries.
2013: The Advanced Leadership Academy (ALA), a five-day program, was created to provide high school juniors and seniors with an extended HOBY experience.