Only in hindsight am I aware of what the memoir depicts so clearly. My desperate search for approval and self-worth manifests itself in an obsession with winning all the highest accolades at the orphanage. And while I become captain of most of the sports teams, president of the class and honor society, and salutatorian of my senior class, I’m left hollow, drained and unfulfilled. I seek external validation in a depersonalized institution that cannot mend my broken heart.

The significant upgrade of my futile chase is a full ride to Princeton and later, Johns Hopkins. Princeton figures prominently in my life, first as a student-athlete, then as Assistant Director of Admissions and finally, as a proud Princeton trustee. My network of Princeton graduates from the three stints is vast and was likely the key to my election by alumni as a trustee. Roles as class officer, Reunion Chairman and admissions interviewer have expanded the network.

The central core of my career was the creation of Renaissance Leadership, Inc. As CEO of this firm for twenty-six years, I coached Fortune 1000 executives and their leadership teams on enlightened leadership and high performance teamwork. 

Longstanding clients included AT & T, Colgate Palmolive, Pfizer, and Smith Barney and produced a following that grew to over 12,000 executives and managers. I drafted a book based upon my firm’s philosophy called Renaissance of the American Spirit which I have not sought to publish.

Stories about my life and career have been featured in The Washington Post magazine, Esquire, and Princeton Alumni Weekly. Dozens of articles about the significant transformation at Milton Hershey School during my tenure were published in The Harrisburg Patriot News and a host of other regional papers.

John A. O'Brien