Arts Center Gets Boost

Times Staff Writer

Henry T. Segerstrom, Orange County’s leading arts philanthropist, said Monday that he and his wife, Elizabeth, were making a third major donation -- this time “just a little over $10 million” -- to the Orange County Performing Arts Center to fund a concert hall set to open Friday.

The Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, named after Segerstrom and his previous wife, who died six years ago, will seat 2,002.

The couple’s gift brings the amount raised to $151 million, a center spokeswoman said, giving the difficult, seven-year effort a home-stretch boost toward its $200-million goal.


After a long lull in fundraising, the center has confirmed donations and pledges of $18 million during the last five months.

The new gift raises contributions from Segerstrom, the Costa Mesa retail and office developer whose family owns South Coast Plaza, past the $50-million mark -- not counting the 5 acres valued at $16 million that the family donated in 1998 for the hall and a planned art museum.

Segerstrom, 83, said he committed his previous $40-million gift within days of the June 2000 death of Renee at age 72 after a long illness. He said Monday that sorrow prompted him to make a far bigger donation than either he or center officials had expected.

In early July 2000, Segerstrom met Elizabeth, his third wife, as they were dining in a Manhattan restaurant. The couple were married three weeks later.

“She has been such an important part of the design and construction,” Segerstrom said. “The two of us wanted to do some more, and I wanted her to have that recognition.”

He said further details, such as whether some feature within the new hall would be named for Elizabeth, would be announced during the run-up to the wing’s opening.


Elizabeth Segerstrom is chairing this weekend’s gala celebrations Friday and Saturday.

The Pacific Symphony will be joined by opera star Placido Domingo on opening night, and by violinist Midori the second night.

Segerstrom said the festivities would also include a light display designed by the noted opera and theater director Robert Wilson.