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A lifelong scholar, Henry Segerstrom had a curious mind that earned him academic distinction at an early age. Growing up during the Depression in the then rural farming communities of Santa Ana and Costa Mesa, California, Henry possessed a keen capacity for critical thought which allowed him to excel through primary school. Henry attended Washington Elementary School and Willard Middle School, both in Santa Ana, where he often was remembered by friends and fellow pupils as an exceptional student and innate leader. While attending Santa Ana High School in the late 1930’s, Henry presided as President of The Honor Society as well as President of his senior class.
Although Henry came from a farming upbringing, his boundless ambition and focus eventually earned him admittance to Stanford University in the fall of 1941. It was during his tenure at Stanford that Henry’s love for the arts began to flourish. During term time he often would travel to San Francisco to attend musicals, plays and art exhibitions. While back at home in Orange County on breaks, he would travel north to Los Angeles to take in performances and shows as there was no large stage, symphony orchestra or opera in Santa Ana or Costa Mesa. Later, Henry would reflect that Orange County’s population in the 1940’s was simply too small to support such artistic institutions and ambitions. Building upon the creative passions of his youth, Henry would eventually transform the Orange County community into an international arts destination.
As an undergraduate at Stanford, Henry earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1946 despite the prodigious interruption of the Second World War. It was in his sophomore year, at the young age of 18, that Henry’s studies would be put on hold to join the war effort overseas. In 1945, after his right arm was severely injured in combat, Henry was discharged from active service and returned home to a hospital in Menlo Park, California. Henry’s goals still were impervious to such a setback; he finished his undergraduate degree on independent study at Stanford in the Food Research Department while concurrently undergoing intensive rehabilitation and recovery. Further undeterred, Henry then applied and was accepted to Stanford’s competitive and renowned Graduate School of Business where he received his MBA in 1948. In the eight years between undergraduate admission and his graduate degree, he also had completed four and a half years of active military service, rising from the rank of Private to Captain. With a graduate degree in hand, Henry returned home to Orange County to rejoin the family business begun by his grandfather in 1898 and eventually to transform the civic, commercial and cultural landscape of Southern California.
As a Stanford alumnus, Henry’s unique business model and commercial acumen would eventually lead him to play a vital role in the university’s future advancement. In the late 1990’s, Henry was a key player in establishing the Center for Social Innovation (CSI) within the university’s Graduate School of Business. Building upon the university’s assets, CSI works to expand and expose the college’s resources to a larger audience of executives around the world through research, education, and experiential learning. It was Henry who helped the Center strive to define the term ‘social innovation’ in the 21st century. This campaign would lead to the launch of multiple academic centers for social innovation around the world and even the creation of the White House Office for Social Innovation. The Center continues to act as a hub for fostering new initiatives bringing effective, efficient and sustainable solutions to businesses all over the globe.
In February of 2008, Henry was the honored recipient of Stanford’s prestigious Ernest C. Arbuckle Award. Sponsored annually by the Alumni Association of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the Arbuckle Award recognizes excellence in the field of management leadership. Recipients are to have demonstrated a lifelong dedication to responding to the changing needs of society through business management—all traits exemplary of Henry Segerstrom’s contributions to commerce and culture in Southern California. Additionally, in 2016, Henry was inducted into the Stanford Real Estate Hall of Fame by SPIRE, Stanford Professionals in Real Estate.
Like many of the Greatest Generation, Henry Segerstrom was affected by World War II’s indelible mark, both in body and spirit as well as in conviction and character. In 1939, the German invasion of Poland marked the European entry into the Second World War as well as the end of adolescence for many American teenagers. Only a year later, Henry would graduate from Santa Ana High School in 1940 and begin his college career at Stanford University. Upon entry, he immediately enrolled in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at only 17 years of age. Henry would later reflect that joining the service was a natural decision for him and his contemporaries who felt it a matter of duty, entering with a sense of moral obligation. This same sense of allegiance would follow Henry throughout his life as a civic and philanthropic leader in his community and as one of America’s cultural pioneers.
During his collegiate tenure in the ROTC, Henry was trained specifically in Field Artillery which would later become his ground force division while in active duty. However, training on the Stanford campus proved dated in the eyes of many junior officers; Henry would later recount practicing his groundwork with antiquated World War I French 75 canons and equestrian units. Though any training would prove timely as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 came in the same year as Henry’s enlistment in the Army; sophomore year would mark his formal entry into the Armed Services in 1942. The ROTC (unlike other divisions of the military at the time) held no requirements for recruits to receive their college degrees before entering active service. Thus, Henry entered active duty on his 20th birthday in 1943.
Henry was first sent to Fort MacArthur in Long Beach, California followed by tenure at Fort Roberts in Paso Robles, California. While at Fort Roberts, he underwent a summer session of basic training, only to be sent back to Stanford for 90 days. He would later remark that this holding pattern reflected the military’s dilemma as to what it was going to do with such a young group of soldiers, mostly 18 or 19 years of age, during such a critical and unpredictable time. It was through the democratization of G.I. life, wherein everyone was an equal, that Henry would later reflect he gleaned his most principled values of hard work, perseverance and focus. Throughout his 10 year military career, Henry felt his greatest lesson was the truth that any whole is only as good as the sum of its parts. These principles would come into play later in his life as he exercised great diplomacy at the helm of his growing business empire in Orange County.
After basic training, Henry was next sent to Officer Training School in Fort Sill, Oklahoma where he earned the rank of Corporal as well as the highest performance rating in his unit. Following a later stint in Fort Rucker, Alabama, the young lieutenant from Southern California recalled having difficulty adjusting to the culture of the ‘Deep South’. Part of his training down South also included briefly attending the Second Army’s mine school at Camp Forrest, Tennessee where he became an instructor in aircraft recognition. Henry often told the story that he first learned the recognition lessons only one night before having to begin training newly enlisted soldiers the following day. While training troops at Fort Rucker, Henry received his overseas orders and would next be sent to the front lines in Europe. Departing from Boston Massachusetts with 7,000 other G.I.’s, Henry sailed on the British troopship Aquitania on an unescorted voyage to Glasgow, Scotland.
“Then we promptly took the train to Southampton, England, stopping briefly at Liverpool Station in London. I remember it was New Year’s Eve when we boarded another ship for Le Havre, France. On January 1, 1945, we were there.” —Henry Segerstrom from “Fire Mission: 109 – The History of Stanford University’s Class of 1944, Officer Candidate Class 109 and the experiences of its members in World War II”, Richard W. Keusink, 1999
After Arriving in France and a brief stay with fellow troops at the French Army Quarters at Fontainebleau, Henry was assigned the position of forward observer in the 103rd Infantry Division at Alsace. In this critical and respected role, his main task would be to direct fire on German troops from fixed observation points. It was in this post that Henry utilized then newly developed and highly top-secret proximity fuses. Although such technology provided his unit with a new degree of protection, Henry found surprising relevance in the archaic training of his ROTC days.
“Once in a while the German troops moved during the daylight and used a lot of horses. At those times I thought of the day that Colonel Allen called us together at Stanford after Paris fell. The colonel had said: ‘Gentlemen, the first German troops to enter Paris were horse-drawn artillery units.’ I remember he had a note of triumph in his voice. And I thought, there we were on campus, training with French 75s, caissons and horses.” —Henry Segerstrom from “Fire Mission: 109 – The History of Stanford University’s Class of 1944, Officer Candidate Class 109 and the experiences of its members in World War II”, Richard W. Keusink, 1999
Directly after the U.S. capture of the Remagen Bridge over the Rhine River, the decorated brigadier general Anthony Clement “Nuts” McAuliffe took command of Henry’s division. McAuliffe had earned his notoriety as the acting division commander of the 101st Airborne Division troops having just defended Bastogne, Belgium during the War’s infamous Battle of the Bulge. The general would then lead Henry and his infantry company across the Rhine. Henry would recount a fateful day, shortly after McAuliffe’s appointment, when his troops marched in single file line across a German minefield, most of the company luckily making it to safety in a wooded area. However the troops were quickly caught under enemy fire, unable to dig foxholes for safety due to the hard ground beneath. At that moment, Henry recalled the infantry major standing up and ordering the troops to ‘Move out!’ despite the shrapnel and shelling showering them.
“It was one of the most dramatic incidents I have ever experienced. Despite the intense fire, each and every infantryman stood up and moved ahead. At that moment I realized why every soldier learns discipline. It’s the automatic response to authority that makes a military operation work.” —Henry Segerstrom from “Fire Mission: 109 – The History of Stanford University’s Class of 1944, Officer Candidate Class 109 and the experiences of its members in World War II”, Richard W. Keusink, 1999
Moving forward toward the Rhine’s crossing, the division came under attack again and Henry found shelter in an abandoned German bunker along with a fellow squad member. In this moment of respite, Henry offered to carry his fellow soldier’s heavy radio transmitter, an act of compassion which would end up saving his life. Unexpectedly, an exploding shell hit the men’s cover, killing his compatriot and severely injuring Henry’s right arm, right hand and lower back. Were it not for the radio and his helmet shielding the explosion, Henry’s fate would have been much more grave. Due to their position in the field, medics were unable to reach Lt. Segerstrom until the following day; once rescued and in a state of shock, Henry was evacuated to a nearby hospital where the attending medic cut off his right index finger which had been rendered useless. Henry recalled this being performed crudely and quickly with a pair of scissors. After fighting for the retention of his right arm, Henry would undergo 19 years of orthopedic surgery, skin grafts, and nerve surgery to regain the use of his limb. He also suffered from osteomyelitis until antibiotics were developed in the late 1980’s to contain the infection.
In 1945, Henry was awarded the Purple Heart and the European Theater of Operations Ribbon with Battle Star in honor of his service and sacrifice. Eventually discharged that same year from a hospital in Marseilles, France, Henry was taken by ship to Charleston, South Carolina, finally settling in Dibble General Hospital in Menlo Park, California. Henry would later remember celebrating V-J Day on his back in a hospital bed. Despite the setbacks of his injury, Henry returned to Stanford to finish his education throughout his recovery. After completing his undergraduate degree, he stayed on to attend the Stanford Graduate School of Business. To simultaneously complete his recovery while earning an advanced degree, Henry exchanged three months at a time in business school with three months as an outpatient in rehabilitation. He would remain active as a lieutenant on the university home front, eventually retiring with the rank of Captain on June 9th 1947.
“I had been in the Army from the ages of 19 to 30. My service to my country is one of the most treasured experiences of my life. Class 109 can be proud we accomplished what we set out to do.” —Henry Segerstrom from “Fire Mission: 109 – The History of Stanford University’s Class of 1944, Officer Candidate Class 109 and the experiences of its members in World War II”, Richard W. Keusink, 1999
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 – 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)