Elizabeth Segerstrom was born in Olsztyn, Poland to intellectual and artistic parents. An only child, her father, Henryk Swiecicki, was an accomplished painter as well as a journalist, editing a leading nation-wide magazine. Her mother, Maria, was also a journalist. The family had fled from the Soviet Regime in Vilno, Lithuania to Olsztyn after World War II.
When Elizabeth was fifteen, her family moved first to Warsaw and later to St. Petersburg, where her father served as the cultural attaché to St. Petersburg. After earning degrees in psychology from Warsaw University and the University of Geneva, academic research led her in 1981 to study at Yale University and later to New York University. On her departure from Warsaw, she was unaware that her flight would be the last one permitted to leave Poland, as Soviet Marshall Law closed Poland’s borders. Her father was arrested for his active support of the Polish Solidarity Movement and died in prison without Elizabeth seeing him again.
Elizabeth received a Rockefeller Foundation Scholarship to study at New York University. After graduation and receiving her doctorate, she established a practice as a therapist, capitalizing on her considerable language and organizational skills to establish the first clinic in New York City to serve the mental health needs of eastern European immigrants in their native languages. Elizabeth speaks four languages–Polish, Russian, French, and English. Additionally, for several years before 1990, Elizabeth wrote a weekly psychology column for a Polish newspaper.
Elizabeth married Ian Macavoy, an investment banker in the 1980s. The marriage lasted several years. In 1991, Elizabeth Macavoy co-authored a “self-help” book with Susan Israelsonm a former patient. Lovesick – The Marilyn Syndrome, became a New York Times bestseller and was translated into Polish and Russian. The authors postulate that childhood emotional deprivation handicaps women in their romantic relationships. The life of Marilyn Monroe is used as a case study.
Elizabeth’s concomitant interest and concern for the quality of life for women in Eastern Europe led her during the 1990s to acquire a license to open Jean Louis David Salons there. Developing her entrepreneurial skills, she successfully opened 32 salons and then sold the franchise back to the parent company.
In 2000, Elizabeth met Henry Segerstrom in New York City. They married on July 29th of that year at the St. Regis Hotel, in New York City. Soon after their marriage, Elizabeth quickly became involved with the final design phases of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, California. In 2003, she accepted the role of chairing the six-week opening celebration of the new concert hall and the Samueli Theater that opened in 2006. In that role she organized a spectacular opening night at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, coordinating the Performing Arts Center’s arts partners’ participation in the Orange County Performing Arts Center’s opening events and its twentieth anniversary.
In 2006, Elizabeth and Henry Segerstrom orchestrated a three-week Mariinsky Festival celebrating the opening of the new concert hall that featured the first Southern California presentation of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. In 2007, they launched the new Elizabeth and Henry Segerstrom Select Series¸ an artistic collaboration with the Philharmonic Society of Orange County that continues to bring the highest quality of internationally acclaimed performances to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
The Guilds of the Center, a support group for the Orange County Performing Arts Center, honored Elizabeth Segerstrom in 2007 for the three years she served as chair of the opening events committee.
Elizabeth Segerstrom also received the Golden Baton Award from the Philharmonic Society of Orange County at a ceremony on May 15, 2011, at the Center Club in Costa Mesa. The Golden Baton Award was created in 1982 to give special recognition to those whose dedication to the proliferation of the arts in Southern California has been extraordinary. The recipients of this award constitute a definitive “who’s who” of Southern California arts leaders.
Elizabeth Segerstrom has made an enormous impact on the cultural climate of Orange County since moving there in 2000. Her sophisticated and highly educated approach to the arts and well as her European worldliness continues to advance the visual and performing arts in the region.