Advertisement

THE CROWD:Guilds event honors Elizabeth Segerstrom

March 31, 2007|By B.W. COOK

Elizabeth Segerstrom arrived in Orange County a few short years ago, the new wife of business and cultural leader Henry T. Segerstrom, managing partner of South Coast Plaza and visionary behind the Orange County Performing Arts Center — two of Segerstrom's primary roles among countless projects and spheres of influence. Elizabeth was young, beautiful, very chic and accomplished in her own right, although her pedigree was unknown to Orange County. She was, in a very real sense, like the student who transfers into the senior class of high school from another town and is thrown into a crowd of folks who have grown up together. She was an outsider. She was a big-city girl from Manhattan born in Europe and she spoke with a distinct Polish accent. Very petite, exquisitely dressed and ultra feminine, Elizabeth came on the O.C. scene as an instant A-lister. Her husband, after all, is among the most respected, revered and feared in some circles, community leaders. In fact, Henry Segerstrom has earned a national and international reputation as an American philanthropist and business icon.

Advertisement

As the wife and partner of this man, Elizabeth had a challenging role to assume. In addition, it was a role that had belonged to two previous women who had both been visible and prominent members of society. Moreover, Henry's late wife, Renee, who passed away after a private battle with cancer, would have her name along with Henry's as the frontispiece of the highly publicized expansion of the performing arts center. The new young bride, who knew no one and had little familiarity with the community, would be asked to lead and chair the opening of the $200-million-plus grand arts center that would carry the name of her husband's late wife.

Many women would have found the challenge daunting. Not Elizabeth. She stepped into the role with consummate grace. There was some resistance. There were bruised egos, hurt feelings among some who, with reason, felt slighted for their years of contribution. Others wondered how a stranger to Orange County could pull off such a task without longtime connections.

In the end, the center opened in grand style. It was a landmark event in the history of Orange County, and it was accomplished as a team effort as longtime donors, volunteers and staff joined the newcomer on the block to set a new standard for the community.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles
|
|
|