HOBY WEST VIRGINIA
The history of HOBY West Virginia, as told by John F Newbrough, our local founder on September 2, 2019
The Weirton Jaycees, or members of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, signed up with HOBY International to create and run the HOBY West Virginia program. During the first year, the program was to select a single student from the state of West Virginia to represent us at the HOBY International Seminar.
The following year we started our own state seminar. It was to be held in Jacksons Mill, WV in late January. Ron Clymer was chairman and I was on the committee with several other Jaycees. The program was approved by our state Jaycee organization and we asked each Jaycee chapter to send a student as per HOBY International rules at the time. We had about 60 students coming to the first seminar, which during those days ran from Friday through Sunday afternoon. We ran into two challenges during our first seminar. The first, students were supposed to bring money from their local Jaycee chapters and only a few showed up with money in hand. The second, shortly after students arrived it began snowing and didn’t stop until there was about a foot of snow on the ground. None of our local speakers could make it so I and another Weirton Jaycee filled in. At this time I had not really done any public speaking. We were asked to spend 10 minutes speaking on a subject and let them ambassadors ask questions for the remainder of the hour. I was doubtful that it would work well but I was determined to try. To my amazement, after the 10 minutes of speaking we asked for questions and hands quickly started to go up. This moment really turned me on to the program and I was hooked.
The following year I volunteered to be the program chair and soon after our initial chairman, Ron Clymer, resigned and moved away. I went to the Jaycee state meeting and presented the program to the state leaders who expressed interest in keeping the program going while also giving the program to another Jaycee to chair. This was because of our insistence on the Jaycee’s paying for the previous year as they were supposed to. They weren’t a fan and decided to elect another Jaycee to oversee the program. I knew this individual and advocated to remain in charge of the program because I was afraid under the wrong leadership the program would be destroyed. They laughed after I told them I would have to try to take the program away from them. So, I called Hugh O’Brian. I had never talked to him personally, but I told him the story and he agreed with me. He said if I would take over the program and raise the money it was my program to run with. I had no idea what I was going to do but I knew a couple Junior Women’s Club members so I found out the State Chair at the time was Sheila Williams and arranged a meeting with her in Kingwood, WV. The meeting went well and she agreed to help. Then I did the same with the Rotary clubs and with the help of Hugh O’Brian, we were able to bring the Kiwanis on board.
This was my first year running the program and it was an incredible experience. With the help of my wife, my secretary from work, and close friend Sharon Virtue we were able to put together a great program. A few of the Junior Women members volunteered to be at the seminar and became hooked on the program. Brenda Walker, Mary Shahan, Shelia Williams, and Pam Braden were the early members that stuck with me for many years.
Our program was selected as one of the top ten in the country. This allowed me to represent West Virginia at the HOBY International program in Orlando and attend the yearly training seminars held in Chicago. This helped me learn how other seminars were run and got acquainted with the big guy himself, Hugh O’Brian.
One of our students from this year, Rob Aliff, wanted to come back and help out. I was so impressed with him and his desire I had him back and he became my right-hand man all weekend. I think by this time our seminar had grown to become a 4 day event. We worked together 18 hours a day and not once did he ever say he was tired. This became the beginning of Alumni returning on staff and it is what has made HOBY West Virginia special and greater than ever.
1984 - Present
Pam Braden was the first to chair the program after me and she did an incredible job. From 1981 to 1993 I worked on the national program and in 1986 was HOBY Big Daddy for the World Leadership Congress in Indianapolis. I ran HOBY West Virginia as Chair and Corporate President until 1990 and then solely Corporate President until about 2000. To this day I have remained in some capacity on the Board of Directors.