Henry Segerstrom grew up in small town Southern California loving the arts. From his rural upbringing in a successful farming family, he went on to become one of the most cosmopolitan of men. As an adult, he was a world traveler and a connoisseur of luxury goods. He was an expert on fashion, philanthropy, architecture and business. When he envisioned a world-class performing arts center to be built on what was once the family farm, he found his inspiration in Carnegie Hall.

As a regular visitor to New York City who would eventually have a Central Park apartment there, Segerstrom was intrigued by the history and majesty of Carnegie Hall, and by its outstanding performing talent. Segerstrom became a significant financial supporter of the Carnegie Hall Foundation, and over his years of patronage, gave more than 2 million dollars to Carnegie Hall in support of their ongoing programming.

In 2009, Henry established a partnership with the performing arts institution and a friendship with Clive Gillinson, the executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall. The result was a culturally significant event not only for Orange County, but also for Carnegie Hall itself, as for the first time one of Carnegie Hall’s festival programs was presented to audiences outside of New York City.

The Philharmonic Society of Orange County presented the West Coast version of the festival Ancient Paths, Modern Voices: A Celebration of Chinese Culture at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in 2009. Segerstrom’s goal was to

showcase Chinese music and performance arts, and bring China’s best artists to Orange County.

The festival itself was created by Clive Gillinson and Carnegie Hall, so issues like acquiring visas for the artists had already been resolved, allowing for the details to come together in a matter of days, not months or years, Segerstrom said at the time.

The partnership and the performances were a great success, drawing enthusiastic audiences and strengthening ties between Segerstrom Center for the Arts and Southern California’s growing Chinese and Chinese American communities. The success of the festival encouraged all to proceed with a second year of the partnership, which saw the Philharmonic Society of Orange County present JapanOC, a season-long festival exploring the diversity of Japanese and Japanese American arts and culture. Segerstrom believed that Carnegie Hall’s partnership demonstrated the success of the arts in Orange County, and the infrastructure and facilities at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

In 2010, Henry was awarded the Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence, which triggered a mass exodus of Orange County society’s art and culture class to NYC for several days of celebrating, hosted by the stylish Elizabeth Segerstrom, Henry’s wife. The celebration took place in New York City at The Waldorf Astoria’s Starlight Roof with a full house of 350 guests, including many of New York’s cultural elite.

CEOs and senior executives of many of the luxury brands that have a presence at South Coast Plaza also attended, including Christian Dior, Cartier (who hosted a cocktail party in Segerstrom’s honor the night before at its Fifth Avenue mansion), Louis Vuitton, Hermès of Paris, Tiffany & Co., Giorgio Armani, Harry Winston, Valentino, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Yves Saint Laurent.

The NYC-OC cultural connection lives on. In May 2016, a year after Henry’s death, Elizabeth Segerstrom served as co-chair for an event marking the 125th anniversary of Carnegie Hall, with South Coast Plaza as a significant corporate sponsor.

As Clive Gillinson of Carnegie Hall said at the Medal of Excellence ceremony, “Henry has literally transformed the economic and the cultural landscape of Orange County in a most remarkable way.”