Henry Thomas Segerstrom was dedicated to family, passionate about learning, and ultimately a model citizen who gave more than he received.
Henry Segerstrom was born April 5, 1923, to Swedish immigrants in Santa Ana, California. A philanthropist, businessman, entrepreneur, cultural leader, and patron, Henry graduated from Stanford University earning a Bachelor of Arts degree and in 1948, a Master of Business Administration degree, after serving in World War II. His vision for the future was clear and focused: where others saw obstacles, he pursued goals. A member our our nation’s greatest generation, his determination helped to develop Orange County into a cosmopolitan setting.
Henry Segerstrom volunteered in 1942 to serve in the United States Army, where he remained on active duty until 1947, rising from the rank of private to captain in the Field Artillery. Severely wounded in action in France in 1945, he was awarded the Purple Heart Medal and the European Theater of Operations Ribbon with Battle Star.
As managing partner of C. J. Segerstrom and Sons, a family-owned commercial real estate and retail management company established in 1898, Henry T. Segerstrom spearheaded the family’s commercial development of Orange County, building South Coast Plaza, one of the largest and most profitable enclosed retail centers in the United States, Opening in 1967 in what was then a quiet agricultural community, South Coast Plaza today draws more than 18 million visitors each year and has evolved to become an international destination for fashion and luxury shopping. Envisioning the mixing of resources that would surround South Coast Plaza, Henry T. Segerstrom not only transitioned his grandfather’s company from farming into retail and commercial real estate but worked steadily to unite commerce with the arts and to integrate the arts into Segerstrom commercial developments.
Good judgment, I think, was something that was characteristic of the members of the [Segerstrom] family. We were always conservative, but realized that the least conservative decision one could make would be to do nothing. And we never wanted to just sit on our laurels or just sit on our land…. We wanted to grow with the county. – Henry T. Segerstrom
The private sector must recognize problems and frustrations of public bodies and elected officials. We must actively support the efforts of government to fulfill the personal and collective desires of our citizens to protect and improve our physical and social environment. When the partnership works well, then again will Orange County be known for its progressive attitudes and accomplishments. And we will all share in the good life we call “Orange County.” – Henry T. Segerstrom
In the 1940s, Orange County was home to many cultural institutions and although there was a considerable interest in the arts, there were no performance spaces nor any public art. As a farming family, the Segerstroms owned a sizable amount of land in the region, and in 1979, generously donated five acres to build the foundation for a cultural center to house three developing cultural institutions in Orange County—the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, the Pacific Symphony, and the Pacific Chorale. By 1986, they all became one Center, originally called the Orange County Performing Arts Center, which eventually expanded and evolved to become the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, a complex named in recognition of the Segerstrom’s inimitable generosity, contributions, and dedication. Today, the arts complex comprises Segerstrom Hall, a 3,000-seat opera house, Founders Hall, an intimate 250-seat hall, the 2,000-seat Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, the 500-seat Samueli Theater, and the Lawrence and Kristina Dodge Education Center’s studio performance space and Boeing Education Lab. It is also surrounded by a majestic Arts Plaza, commissioned and curated by Henry T. Segerstrom, expanding on his vision of art for the public’s engagement, which includes works of art from celebrated artists such as Isamu Noguchi, Henry Moore, Richard Serra, Alexander Calder, Joan Miró, and Jean Dubuffet. Among Henry Segerstrom’s many honors and accomplishments, he was most proud of his service as founding chairman of the Orange County Performing Arts Center, and his vital role in establishing the Center for Social Innovation at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.
In 2006, Henry T. Segerstrom and his wife, Elizabeth Segerstrom, orchestrated a three-week Mariinsky Festival celebrating the opening of the new Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, designed by Cesar Pelli, as part of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. The Festival featured the North American premiere of the Mariinsky Opera Company’s critically acclaimed production of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) conducted by Valery Gergiev. In 2007, the Segerstroms launched the new Elizabeth and Henry Segerstrom Select Series, an artistic collaboration with the Philharmonic Society of Orange County that brings internationally acclaimed performers to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
Noteworthy accolades include an honorary Doctorate of Law from Western University in 1986 and an honorary Doctorate from Whittier Law School in 2002. Additionally Margaret Thatcher presented the prestigious Tree of Life Award of the Jewish National Fund to Henry T. Segerstrom in 1995. In 1998, he was awarded the title of Commander and bestowed with the Order of the Polar Star by the King of Sweden.
In February 2008, Stanford University presented Henry T. Segerstrom with the prestigious Ernest C. Arbuckle Award for his lifetime of outstanding accomplishments and in the fall of 2009, a new alliance between Carnegie Hall and the Segerstrom Center for the Arts brought programming from Carnegie Hall’s “Ancient Paths, Modern Voices” festival celebrating Chinese culture to Southern California, resulting in a West Coast festival, presented by the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and prominent partner institutions. This marked the first time that Carnegie Hall’s live festival programming reached audiences outside New York City. This institutional alliance was recognized on June 7, 2010, when Carnegie Hall presented Henry T. Segerstrom with the Fourth Annual Medal of Excellence. The Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence honors an executive whose accomplishments in the corporate sector complement Carnegie Hall’s stature as one of the premier performance venues in the world. At the Gala, Clive Gillinson, Carnegie Hall’s Executive and Artistic Director, presented Mr. Segerstrom with a Proclamation declaring June 7, 2010, Segerstrom Center for the Arts Day in New York.
Henry Segerstrom contributed his time, resources, and leadership as a board member of numerous local, national, and international institutions, including the White Nights Foundation of America, the American Friends of Versailles, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. Henry T. Segerstrom also served as the National Chairman of the Business Committee for the Arts, headquartered in New York City.
Action in Transit Committee – Director 1974
Associated Farmers of Orange County – President of the Board of Directors 1954
Bank of America – Board of Directors 1990-1995
Business Committee for the Arts – Founding Member 1980
California Business Round Table – Member 1970
California Club – Member
California Theatre Council – Founding Member
Carnegie Hall – Board of Trustees 2006-2015
Citizens Committee for the Orange County Transit District – Chairman 1970
Costa Mesa Planning Commission – Director 1974
Costa Mesa Planning Committee – Founding Chairman 1980
Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin – Chairman 1970
DeMolay Legion of Honor – Board of Trustees 2008
Equitable Savings and Loan Association – Finance Chairman 1974; Board of Trustees 1980
552 Club-Hoag Hospital
International Council of Shopping Centers – Founding Director 1980
Laguna Beach Museum of Art – Advisory Committee Member
Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art – Board of Directors 1984-1988
Los Angeles, Music Center
Fraternity of Friends
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles – Board of Directors 1980
National Business Committee for the Arts – Director and Executive Committee Member 1986-1995; Board of Trustees 1999-2002
National Reaity Committee, Inc. – Chairman of the Board of Directors 1980
Newport Harbor Art Museum – Board of Directors 1960-1980
Newport Harbor Yacht Club
Newport Irvine Waste Management Planning Agency – Founding Director 1960
Orange County Business Committee for the Arts – Chairman of the Board of Directors 1986; CEO and Chairman 1987-1988
Orange County Chamber of Commerce – Member 1996
Orange County Energy Conservation Association – Director 1963
Orange County Museum of Art – Board Member 1998
Orange County Performing Arts Center – Director 1980; Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Director 1987-1990 – Vice-Chairman for the Endowment (secures nearly $15 million in cash gifts) – 1990-1995
Orange County Transportation Commission – Founding Member and Chairman 1978
Orange County Transit District Citizens Committee for Proposition A – Chairman 1972
Orange County Water District (an elected public office) – Director, Division 7 1957-1984; Vice President 1962-1967; President 1967 (serves three consecutive terms)
Petrolane, Inc. – President of Board of Directors 1960-1966
Republican Senatorial Inner Circle, 25th Anniversary – Member 2004
Royal Round Table of Swedish Councils – Board of Directors 1982; Chairman for two years
Safeco – Founding Trustee 1982-1993
Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce – Member 1970
Santa Ana First Presbyterian Church – Member 1970
Santa Ana Rotary Club – Member 1970
Security Pacific National Bank – Finance Chairman 1972
Sigma Chi Fraternity – Stanford University
Stanford University Graduate School of Business – The Nonprofit Management Institute and the Center for Social Innovation – Founder and Funder
Stanford Associates Board of Governors – Member 1974
Stanford Business School Alumni Association – Member
Society of the Huntington Library and Gardens in Pasadena – Fellow and Overseer 1976
Southern California Edison Company – President of the Board of Directors 1973-1974
State Board of Directors of the Associated Farmers of Orange County – President 1967-1973; Member and Director 1951
Union Bank – Board of Directors
United States Office of Agriculture Stabilization Committee – Orange County Chairman 1957
University of California, Irvine – Chancellor’s Club 1979-1984
University of California, Irvine, College of Medicine – Advisory Committee 1995-2000
Urban Land Institute
White Knights Foundation of America – Board of Trustees
World Affairs Council of Orange County – Founding Member and Trustee 1967
Water Committee of the California State Legislature, Orange County District – Member 1970
Managing Partner – C.J. Segerstrom & Sons
Managing Partner – Town Center Associates
Managing Partner – South Coast Plaza Associates
Managing Partner – Mesa Verde Associates
Managing Partner – Harbor Associates
Managing Partner – Nordso Partnership
Managing Partner – Secon Properties (Joint Venture with CIGNA)
Chairman, Executive Committee – One Town Center Drive Associates (Joint Venture with Prudential Insurance Company of America)
Chairman, Executive Committee – Two Town Center Drive Associates (Joint Venture with Prudential Insurance Company of America)
Henry T. Segerstrom passed away on February 20, 2015, at the age of 91 at his home in Newport Beach after a brief illness. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; his three adult children, sons Toren and Anton and daughter Andrea Grant; their spouses; six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.