Exploring the life of Henry T. Segerstrom

The Segerstrom Media Lab

Henry T. Segerstrom

Henry Thomas Segerstrom was born April 5, 1923 to Swedish immigrants in Santa Anna, California.
A philanthropist, businessman, entrepreneur, and cultural leader and patron, Henry T. Segerstrom 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. Segerstrom volunteered in 1942 to serve in the United States Army. 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 he has worked steadily to unite commerce with the arts and to integrate the arts into Segerstrom commercial developments.

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 and 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 Arts, a performance art complex, named in recognition of the Segerstrom’s inimitable generosity, contributions, and dedication.

Today, the performance art 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’s also surrounded by a majestic Arts Plaza, commissioned and curated by Henry T. Segerstrom, expanding upon his vision of art for the public’s engagement, that includes works of art from celebrated artists such as Isamu Noguchi, Henry Moore, Richard Serra, Alexander Calder, Joan Miro, and Jean Dubuffet.

Among Henry Segerstrom’s many honors and accomplishments, he is 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. Other 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. He has served on the board of Bank of America,

Safeco, and Southern California Edison Company, among many others, and he has 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 has also served as the National Chairman of the Business Committee for the Arts, headquartered in New York City.

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.

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.
With his dedicated community leadership through gifts of valuable land and financial resources, along with commissions of critically significant architecture and sculpture, Henry T. Segerstrom’s lifelong commitment to the vital cultural life for Orange County is discernible. Orange County is now recognized for its sophisticated arts community, its innovation, entrepreneurism, and cutting edge successes in business and technology.

Henry T. Segerstrom resides with his wife Elizabeth in Newport Beach and New York City. He has three adult children: sons Toren and Anton, and daughter Andrea Grant.