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Column: The Crowd: The Guilds’ springtime event recognizes years of giving to Segerstrom Center

Center Chairman Mark Perry and center board member Larry Higby at annual Guilds of the Center luncheon at Balboa Bay Resort.
(Photo courtesy of Doug Gifford )

Since the founding of the Orange County Performing Arts Center, now named Segerstrom Center for the Arts (SCFTA), grass roots community support has been the foundation of its growth and cultural impact. Indeed, multi-million dollar donations from benefactors — led by the Segerstrom family in particular — have made the overall dream a reality. But at the community level, a confederation of regional chapters of Orange County patrons known as The Guilds of the Center have not only provided financial backing, but perhaps more importantly major community outreach enabling the center to impact the lives of all residents.

Each spring members of The Guilds join forces to reinforce their support of the arts and culture under the amazing creative leadership of The Center organization and its distinguished board of directors.

This season, the 18 chapters of The Guilds joined together, celebrating an event labeled “Springtime in Provence.” The event unfolded at Balboa Bay Resort, attracting some 300 Guild members and their guests, raising $250,000. Chaired by Willie Goodman, representing the Beverly Sills Chapter of The Guilds, the lively event was emceed by The Guilds chairwoman, Mary Shebell. Zack Krone served as master host and auctioneer.

Mary Shebell, Amy Larson and Willie Goodman at the annual Guilds of the Center luncheon at Balboa Ba
Mary Shebell, Amy Larson and Willie Goodman at the annual Guilds of the Center luncheon at Balboa Bay Resort.
(Photo courtesy of Doug Gifford)

Springtime in Provence recognized and honored devoted donors Dee and Larry Higby, who first became involved with The Guilds as members of the Con Gusto Chapter. Dee Higby also joined the Crescendo Chapter and became a supporting member of the center’s exclusive Angels of the Arts group.

Since 1990, Larry Higby has been a member of the center’s board of directors and has also served as its chairman. The annual event also honored Sandy Bass, who received The Guilds’ Inspiration Award in recognition of her exemplary service and volunteerism working on many projects for The Guilds and the Center over 18 years. Among her many roles, Bass chaired the Crescendo Chapter and also co-chaired the entire Guilds membership of over 1,200 patrons.

Distinguished Center Executive Vice President Judy Morr was spotted in the crowd visiting with Center Chairman Mark Perry and his wife, Carol. VIP patrons in attendance included Julia Argyros, Carol Wilken, Bev Sandelman, Gail Daniels, Kay Fukunaga, Marilyn McCorkle and Sandy Hovanesian.

A second major event unfolded under the banner “Over The Rainbow” sponsored by the Beverly Sills Chapter of The Guilds. The recent event in April unfolded at the Fashion Island Hotel, chaired by Karen Fullerton and Judy Kelley.


The luncheon fashion event attracted more than 300 guests, raising $45,000. As the crowd arrived, they were met with a champagne reception apres lunch, which featured a classic Caesar salad, rosemary chicken and farm-to-table vegetables. The table centerpieces also served as dessert. Trees of rainbow cupcakes with assorted frosting delighted guests at each table.

The fashion show featured spring pre a porter for men, women and children with the latest styles provided by Orange County retailers, including CAllie Girl of Mission Viejo, Macy’s South Coast Plaza, Station 17 of Seal Beach and La Galleria at the Enderle Center in Tustin.

Supporting the event were Eilene Fletcher and Marily McCorkle, co-chairs of the Beverly Sills Chapter along with Bev Sandelman, Bobbie Bouillon, Shari Cipolla, Willie Goodman and Anne Marie Eckman.

To learn more about the work of The Guilds of The Segerstrom Center for the Arts visit

B.W. COOK is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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