Business School honors alumnus Henry Segerstrom with 2008 Arbuckle Award

Real estate development magnate Henry Segerstrom, whose firm developed one of the nation's largest shopping malls—South Coast Plaza—was presented with the prestigious 2008 Arbuckle Award by the Stanford Graduate School of Business Alumni Association on Feb. 27.

In becoming the 38th Business School graduate to receive the award, Segerstrom, MBA '48, called upon the Business School to create more coursework in public policy.

"In the next 60 years, America will need to prepare responses to challenges of powerful emerging world economies," Segerstrom told the alumni, students and faculty who attended the event. "We must train new national leadership—in business as well as government. Thinking and training only in domestic leadership will no longer be enough to serve our nation's needs."

Sponsored annually by the Stanford Business School Alumni Association, the Ernest C. Arbuckle Award recognizes excellence in the field of management leadership. The award was created in 1968 in honor of the late Business School dean whose name it bears. Recipients must demonstrate a commitment to both managerial excellence and to addressing the changing needs of society.

Segerstrom is managing partner of C. J. Segerstrom & Sons, a diversified real estate development and management firm headquartered in Costa Mesa, Calif. That company is the developer, owner and manager of the upscale South Coast Plaza, one of the largest shopping malls in the United States and one of the nation's few prestigious regional retail centers that remain family-owned. The 2.8 million-square-foot mall opened in Costa Mesa in 1967 on what had formerly been the family's lima bean farm.

Home of high-end department store Nordstrom, as well as pricey boutiques, South Coast Plaza had the highest sales per square foot of any mall in California—about $800—fashion industry trade journal Women's Wear Daily reported in 2004.

This year the mall "is expected to reach $1.5 billion in retail volume, by far the highest retail sales volume of any planned shopping center in the U.S.," Segerstrom said.

In 1974, the Segerstrom family's donations of land and cash helped bring about an arts complex in the area that includes the Tony Award-winning South Coast Repertory Theater. As a result of his involvement in that effort, Segerstrom said, "I collaborated with our Stanford Business School in sponsoring a new class in business management of not-for-profits." That class became so popular, Segerstrom said, that it contributed to the creation of the Business School's pioneering Center for Social Innovation, created in 2000 by a group of faculty, alumni and other leaders committed to social change.

A Southern California native, Segerstrom was raised during the Great Depression. In 1940, at the age of 17, he entered Stanford University, "a peaceful, secluded environment reflecting America's isolation from the war raging in Eastern Europe," he recalled.

After the need for young artillery officers became urgent, Segerstrom said, he was called to active duty before finishing his undergraduate economics degree and was deployed to Europe in late 1944. But Segerstrom was severely wounded in combat and would spend more than two years in military hospitals in Menlo Park and Pasadena. He completed his undergraduate degree in economics and went on to earn an MBA while continuing to serve on active duty in the hospital.

Then Segerstrom returned to Orange County and joined his family's farming business, started by his grandfather in 1898.

Farming gave way to other development after the 1950 opening of the Santa Ana Freeway, he said: "Opportunities for alternate land use began to multiply." He also became involved in public service and was elected by Orange County farmers to be chairman of Orange County's Agricultural Stabilization Committee. A short time later, he was appointed a director of the newly formed Orange County Water District, which constructed a major desalination plant.

In the late 1940s, Segerstrom said he and the other newly minted MBAs encountered a business world without jet airplanes, nonstop international flights, television or computers. Nevertheless, "change came quickly," he said.

And he expects more changes to emerge, driven by international events. "During the next 60 years, our free enterprise system may be threatened by changing world economies," he said. "Certainly, America's strength may be less dominant, and sovereign involvement in America's business and commerce from abroad may warrant responsive corporate governance and national policies."

Today, the Business School's Public Management Program certificate has a specialization in government that requires some of a dozen courses including Growth and Stabilization in the Global Economy; Homeland Security: Operations, Strategy, and Implementation; and Politics and Business in Europe. The school also offers a certificate in global management and has a Center for Global Business and Economy. MBA electives in political economy include Managers and the Legal Environment, Intellectual Property and Its Effect on Business, Politics and Business in Europe, and The Business World: Moral and Spiritual Inquiry Through Literature.

Michele Chandler is assistant communications director at the Graduate School of Business.