During Henry Segerstrom’s term as chairman of the board of the Orange County Performing Arts Center in the late 1980s, a feasibility study was commissioned to determine community interest in the performing arts. Beyond expectations, the results of the study showed that the performing arts had become a vital and essential activity for Orange County and an even larger facility was actually desired. Consequently, it was decided that a concert hall would be the next phase in the growth of the Orange County Performing Arts fulcrum. Over the next several years the project progressed and conceptual plans were drawn. In 1995 Henry Segerstrom was honored and named founding chairman of the Orange County Performing Arts Center. The reality for a Segerstrom Center for the Arts was in place.
While in 1999 as the Segerstrom cultural complex was expanding, the Segerstrom family donated six acres for a proposed 2,000-seat concert hall, a 500-seat theater, and land for the relocation site for the Orange County Museum of Art building, as well as a centralized public plaza area. The gift also incorporated additional land for the South Coast Repertory Theater to add its third audience area stage. Together, the complex of three performing arts facilities would eventually be named Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
The fund-raising for the new concert hall also started in 1999. In 2000 Renée Segerstrom passed away. She and Henry had worked a number of years on the project together. In her memory, he made a personal decision to be the lead donor for the concert hall and provided the first personal cash gift of $40 million to the Center’s $200 million capital campaign. This was the largest charitable cash gift in the history of Orange County. Later in the campaign, Henry would personally commit another $11 million, raising the total to $51 million.
“The philosophy behind the Samueli Family Foundation is the belief that grants should help to improve the quality of life for all. The Foundation’s strategy has been one of thoughtful investment; being pro-active in seeking out agencies that exemplify qualities of creativity, sustainability and entrepreneurial vision.”
—Henry and Susan Samueli