Whittier Law Benefactor Henry Segerstrom Passes Away

Henry Segerstrom, one of the founding fathers of modern Orange County and a pivotal figure in the history of Whittier Law School, has passed away at the age of 91.

Henry Segerstrom and Family

At a news conference in 1996, Mr. Segerstrom and other city officials were on hand to announce the opening of Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa. The school’s campus was originally located in Hancock Park in Los Angeles, but the law school had outgrown the site and was looking to relocate. At the same time, leaders of the Orange County Bar had been clamoring for an ABA-accredited law school within the county, and the ABA encouraged Whittier Law School to move.

The school considered over 80 locations, including Irvine, but decided upon Costa Mesa due in part to Henry Segerstrom’s eagerness to have Orange County’s first ABA-accredited law school in the South Coast Metro area. Law school programs at Chapman University School of Law and Western State College of Law were not yet accredited by the American Bar Association at the time.

Whittier Law School decided upon the 15-acre campus at 3333 Harbor, and began to renovate and remodel the existing office park campus. Henry Segerstrom helped secure the property, assisted with the permit process with the city of Costa Mesa, and assigned staff to help with the improvements to the existing structure.

At the school’s opening, Segerstrom called the law school, “a jewel for Costa Mesa and the entire Orange County community.”

In 1997, the Segerstrom Family Reading Room within the Whittier Law School library was unveiled, funded by a $500,000 donation from Henry Segerstrom. The bronze plaque unveiled by his family remains there today. Whittier Law School presented Henry Segerstrom with an honorary degree during the school’s 34th commencement ceremony in 2002.

According to Whittier Law professor Denny Haythorn, “Henry and his staff continued to be a friend of the law school, offering local assistance and advice to us through the years. He was a great man, we are grateful to have benefited from his generosity in so many ways.”

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