About Hugh O’Brian (1925-2016)

Hugh O’Brian was born April 19, 1925 in Rochester, New York. At 17, he became the youngest drill instructor in Marine Corps history, but found his true passion was acting. O’Brian gained national fame and notoriety with his portrayal of frontier lawman Wyatt Earp in “The Life and Times of Wyatt Earp.” This top-rated television series ran from 1955-1962 and made O’Brian an overnight success. After the series ended, O’Brian went on to other acting projects in film, television, and Broadway while devoting the rest of his time to HOBY.

The honors and awards he has received from his work with HOBY are numerous. In 1983, the National Society of Fund Raising Executives honored him with their premier award for overall philanthropic excellence as a volunteer, fundraiser and philanthropist. This is the only time one individual has received the award in all three categories. In 1989, he received the 60th Annual American Education Award presented by the American Association of School Administrators. O’Brian joins Norman Rock- well, Lyndon Johnson, Helen Keller, Walt Disney, and Bob Hope as a recipient of this most significant award. Mr. O’Brian died on September 5, 2016 at the age of 91

Hugh’s Lasting Legacy

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 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 non-profit organization. Its format for motivation was simple: bring a select group of high school sophomores with demonstrated leadership abilities together with a group of distinguished leaders in business, education, government, and the professions, 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 get a realistic look at what it takes to be a true leader, thus better enabling them “to think for themselves.”

Today, HOBY offers multiple leadership development programs for high school students based on the Social Change Model of Leadership and incorporating community service. Community Leadership Workshops (CLeWs) are held each year locally for freshmen. HOBY State Leadership Seminars for sophomores are held throughout the United States every spring. The World Leadership Congress (WLC) for rising juniors is held each summer in July at a major university in the U.S. and invites students from around the world to participate. HOBY style programs are also conducted in Canada, China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Iraq, Mexico, the Philippines, Taiwan, Turkey, Uganda, and the United Kingdom. The cultural differences that exist between countries of the world are explored in friendship by the American students and their international counterparts when they come together at the WLC. The HOBY experience is truly an inspirational event of a lifetime for student leaders. HOBY boasts more than 500,000 alumni worldwide. Its alumni programs include international tour and service trips for high school and college students.

Each program year, Mr. O’Brian wrote this message to the current year’s ambassadors, and we pass it on to all of you:

“I don’t have any children of my own, but I’ve got a couple of hundred thousand like you out there who I’m proud to call my family. So, shine bright my friends; you are all my tomorrows, and the future is yours to make outstanding!! I wish you love and Godspeed”!