Elizabeth Segerstrom

Board of Directors

Elizabeth Segerstrom was born in Olsztyn, Poland. Her family had fled from the Soviet Regime to Lithuania after World War II. When Elizabeth was fifteen, her family moved first to Warsaw and later to St. Petersburg, where her father served as the Polish cultural attaché. On her departure from Warsaw, she was unaware that her flight would be the last; Soviet Marshall Law closed Poland’s borders. Her father was arrested for his support of the Polish Solidarity Movement and died in prison.  

After earning degrees in psychology from Warsaw University and the University of Geneva, academic research led Elizabeth to Yale University, followed by a Rockefeller Foundation Scholarship to study at New York University. After receiving her doctorate, she established the first clinic in New York City to serve the mental health needs of eastern European immigrants in their native languages (Elizabeth speaks Polish, Russian, French, and English).

In 1991, Elizabeth co-authored a “self-help” book with Susan Israelson, Lovesick–The Marilyn Syndrome, a New York Times bestseller, translated into Polish and Russian. The authors postulate that childhood emotional deprivation handicaps women in romantic relationships. The life of Marilyn Monroe is used as a case study.  For several years in the 1990s, Elizabeth wrote a weekly psychology column for a Polish newspaper. 

In 2000, Elizabeth met and married Henry Segerstrom. Soon after, she became involved with the design of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. In 2003, she chaired its six-week opening celebration including a spectacular opening night, coordinating the Performing Arts Center’s arts partners’ participation. In 2006, she chaired the opening of their Samueli Theater. That year, Elizabeth and Henry Segerstrom orchestrated a three-week Mariinsky Festival that featured the first Southern California presentation of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. In 2007, they launched the new Elizabeth and Henry Segerstrom Select Series, a collaboration with the Philharmonic Society of Orange County that continues to bring the highest quality international performances to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.  More recently, she supervised the production of a PBS documentary on her late husband and his impact on the life and arts of Southern California.  In 2018, she produced a concert with the Mariinsky Orchestra in her late husband’s memory. 

Elizabeth Segerstrom is a major donor to Carnegie Hall, The American Ballet Theater, The Orange County Museum of Art, as well as The Hammer Museum, The Colburn School, and many other institutions supporting classical music, ballet, and contemporary art.  The Guilds of the Center, a support group for the Orange County Performing Arts Center, honored Elizabeth Segerstrom in 2007. She received the Golden Baton Award from the Philharmonic Society of Orange County in 2011.

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