Hollywood actor Hugh O’Brian was living
large, riding a crest of worldwide
celebrity for his starring role in the
popular television series, “The Life and
Legend of Wyatt Earp.”
oversize six-guns strapped to his side,
O’Brian was larger than life, you might
say. He was about to meet a true hero,
Just 33 at
the time, O’Brian received a cable from
Dr. Albert Schweitzer inviting him to
visit the famed humanitarian clinic at a
hospital Schweitzer had founded in 1913
on the banks of the Ogooue River in
Lambarene, Gabon, in Africa.
quickly accepted, marking the start of a
lifelong commitment to helping the
impoverished masses of a downtrodden
years have passed since O’Brian took up
the cause, but the relief program he
started is still saving lives. Now a
Kyrene Corridor man is part of a group
helping to ensure that O’Brian’s work
isn’t diminished by time or inattention.
formerly of Missoula, Mont., does not
look like a movie star. He lives at The
Lakes in Tempe and works in an
austere-looking, brown-block office
building on Southern Avenue in Tempe,
not in some distant and dangerous
jungle, as Schweitzer did.
wasn’t even born when O’Brian went to
Africa to visit Schweitzer for nine
is helping carry on the work that
started nearly half a century ago when
the television star traveled halfway
across the world to meet in the jungles
of Africa with the German
doctor/missionary who had won the Nobel
Peace Prize in 1952.
Dr. Schweitzer saw in Hugh a young man
who was on the cusp of stardom who could
have an influence, who could really
speak to many people though his
celebrity,” Gillet theorizes.
Hugh was sort of the George Clooney, Tom
Cruise, Brad Pitt of his day--pretty
popular and pretty well known.”
to legend, Schweitzer told O’Brian that
the United States was the only country
in the world with the ability to bring
about world peace.
the United States must take a leadership
role or we are a lost civilization,”
O'Brian later reported.
taught him that “the most important
thing in education is to teach young
people to think for themselves,” O’Brian
said when he returned to America.
by Schweitzer’s words--and the implied
challenge when Schweitzer took his hand
and asked, “Hugh, what are you going to
do with this?”–the actor founded the
Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership
1958, HOBY, as the organization is
called, has helped train young men and
women to think for themselves and
prepare to be leaders of tomorrow.
345,000 young people have participated
in HOBY programs throughout the world.
Each year, more than 20,000 public and
private high schools are invited to
select an outstanding tenth grader to
attend HOBY leadership development
HOBY’s alumni are Arkansas Gov. Mike
Huckabee, who called his 1971 HOBY
experience, “a genuine turning point in
brochure included endorsements from a
star-studded field, including Walter
Cronkite, former U.S, Presidents Ronald
Reagan and George H.W. Bush, as well as
the current President Bush. Other HOBY
endorsers include Sen. Hillary Rodham
Clinton, Al Gore, Dr. Henry Kissinger,
Muhammad Ali-- even former Soviet
President Mikail Gorbachev.
Gillet, vice president of underwriting
for Countrywide Home Loans, Full
Spectrum Lending Division, in Tempe.
46, has been a HOBY volunteer for 20
years since he was asked to address one
of the group’s seminar sin Missoula.
vaguely about the organization. I didn’t
know much about what they did,” Gillet
said. But the positive atmosphere of the
HOBY seminar impressed him.
really pretty taken by what they were
doing,” he said.
moved to Arizona in 1987 and soon became
part of the Arizona HOBY program.
a group of volunteers already doing
things here. I joined the group, became
a leader here, and the rest, as they
say, is history.”
recently was named vice chair of the
Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership board of
trustees. It’s a two- year position that
Gillet anticipates will lead to his
being named chairman of the board in
Gillet has a deep commitment to
developing leadership skills in young
people. It is that dedication that has
fueled his passion for the HOBY program
since he began his volunteer work for
the organization 20 years ago,” said a
HOBY press release announcing Gillet’s
that time, Mr. Gillet has served as a
key volunteer within the organization in
a variety of capacities, including
leadership seminar chair in Arizona,
Corporate Board President of the Arizona
HOBY affiliate, volunteer District
Director of the Southwest District of
HOBY and an International Board of
Trustees member,” the release added.
also was named HOBY’s Volunteer of the
Year for 2005 and will receive an award
at an upcoming Albert Schweitzer
Leadership Awards gala in Los Angeles in
Schweitzer’s encouragement to “teach
young people to think for themselves”
has become the backbone of HOBY’s
program, Gillet said.
seminars and workshops, HOBY “brings
leaders of today together with leaders
of tomorrow” in a very interactive
question-and-answer setting where young
people can sit across the table from
CEOs and government leaders “and ask
them the tough questions,” Gillet said.
we did 71 seminars and had about 8,500
students go through the program,” Gillet
said. “It’s a three or four day weekend
seminar, held usually on a major college
campus. It’s a combination of teaching
and training and education in the area
them into the position where they can
have confidence that they can do this.”
“There are 175 to 200 students who don’t
know each other at all, but by the time
72 hours rolls by they are fast friends
who’ve developed friendships that will
last a lifetime. They are a well-oiled
team. They are bonded and together. It’s
a really amazing experience to watch
happen right in front of your eyes.”