1985. Leadership Howard County (LHC) was created by the Howard County Chamber of Commerce. In the mid-1980s, many “leadership” kinds of programs were emerging across the country. Though Leadership Howard County is certainly unique in its participants, visions and history, the concept at the time was definitely part of a trend, said Sue Emerson, director of communications and business development for LHC. “Columbia was still kind of a new city,” she said, “and people had a focus on how they might develop community leaders.” Early on, people such as attorney Richard Talkin and business insurance broker Gordon Mumpower began raising money and developing programs for Leadership Howard County. During its first year, it was housed at the chamber offices.

1986. The first Leadership Howard County class graduated. Caleb Gould and the late Louis Mangione, both prominent local developers, were members of the first class. Already, LHC had grown to the point where its founders decided to form a 501(c)(3) organization. The program officially separated from the Howard chamber, though the two continue to maintain a close relationship, and shared offices for several years before LHC moved to a separate space. Shirley Burrill was hired as the first executive director.

1996. Leadership U, designed for students entering their junior year in high school, began.

1998. The first annual fundraising luncheon was held. Before an official name could be agreed upon, the working name “The Big Event” took hold and has now become the official moniker of LHC’s signature event. The goal was to bring widely known speakers to Howard County who could share inspiring personal stories of visionary leadership and courage. The first keynote speaker was Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham. The popular event, which is open to the public, attracts 500 community members annually who have heard such speakers as Cal Ripken, Cokie Roberts, Jane Pauley, Eric Greitens, Helen Thomas, Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb and Wes Moore discuss their exemplary accomplishments and efforts to make a positive difference in the world.

1999. LHC continued to expand its reach, finding consistently more diverse classes representing many different sectors. Colleen West, executive director of the Howard County Arts Council, said her Leadership (Class of 1999) experience shaped not only her career, but the entire local arts community. “Leadership graduates have both a heightened sense of civic responsibility and a willingness to apply their skills to solve community issues,” she said. “Several Leadership graduates have served on our board of directors over the years and have been instrumental in making the Arts Council what it is today.”

Sept. 11, 2001. The class of 2002 had its very first gathering on the day of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “The events of Sept. 11 certainly defined the class in a way that no one could have foreseen,” recalled Burrill in a commemorative interview about Sept. 11. “The Class of 2002 was and continues to be a very strong and close-knit group, and I’ve always felt that this bond started with the catastrophic happenings of this day.”

2007. Leadership Essentials, a six-month leadership development program targeted to rising stars and future leaders under the age of 40, began.

2008. Leadership Essentials, a six-month leadership development program targeted to young professionals, was launched. (if you need more words:) featuring monthly workshops, individual coaching, and community service.

2009. The first annual Iron Chef Cook-Off was held, organized by the Premier Class of 2005. Originally conceived as a fun activity among classmates, it has evolved into a much-anticipated team-building event for LHC classes, attracting an enthusiastic audience while also raising funds for Leadership U and gathering contributions for the Howard County Food Bank. Brenda von Rautenkranz (Class of 2005) hosts the show, which is broadcast on her cable TV show “Fit for Life.” “It gets better every year,” said Rautenkranz. “People love the competition, and it’s all for a good cause.”

2010. LHC celebrated its 25th anniversary. At this milestone, the Leadership Howard County Board of Directors initiated a strategic planning process with the goal of preparing, inspiring, connecting and sustaining community leaders to make Howard County the best place to live, work and play. Brian Walter, market president for the Chesapeake region at M&T Bank, was instrumental in leading the strategic visioning. Walters (Class of 2001) recalled being fascinated by what he saw as the level of cooperation and coordination that exists between the corporate, nonprofit and government sectors in Howard County. “Leadership Howard County is right at the center of that,” he said. “It draws people from all the different sectors together.”

2011. Leadership Essentials became a program offered through Loyola University Maryland’s Sellinger School of Business in collaboration with LHC. “Leadership Howard County made a strategic decision in seeking a partner to take over the management of Leadership Essentials,” recalled Lori Fuchs, program manager for Leadership Essentials and a consultant for Loyola University. “Although Leadership Essentials is now considered a Loyola program, we get tremendous support from Leadership Howard County.”

2011. LHC began a program called “This Just In” that continues today. A small group discussion (25 people) centers around a current topic or concern. Bob Jeffrey, director of The Jeffrey Group at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and a founding sponsor of “This Just In,” said the forum “has become a newer resource for those looking to expand their knowledge on more focused issues in an intimate and interactive setting.”

2014. Leadership U began a program called “3D-HC” in which students receive learning experiences outside the classroom. 3D-HC, which stands for “Dig Deep and Discover – Howard County,” provides an interactive opportunity for students, working in groups of eight to 10, to gain exposure and insight into a local nonprofit organization.

2015. LHC unveiled a 30th Anniversary Capital Campaign that will bring its scholarship fund to $1 million, allowing the program to support even more future participation. As LHC begins its 30th year, its leaders and alumni look back on the growth of a community leadership program that has more than 1,150 graduates. LHC estimates its alumni have volunteered more than 75,000 hours in support of Howard County nonprofits — equal to an investment of more than $1.8 million in the community. Dick Story, senior vice president for Howard Bank, is in charge of raising contributions from businesses for the LHC campaign. “This endowment has been growing over time,” he said. “Businesses have been responding well, and there is still an opportunity for them to respond.”