SCAD president and founder honors “Savannah Women of Vision”
Feb. 4, 2016 – Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) President and Founder Paula Wallace rings in Georgia Day with the Savannah Women of Vision investiture, honoring 10 women of peerless valor, altruism and intellect. During the ceremony, each honoree will be extolled through prose, music and art. As a permanent tribute, portraits of the 10 women, carved by SCAD alumnus Michael Porten (B.F.A., illustration; M.F.A., painting), will adorn the walls of Arnold Hall, SCAD’s home for liberal arts. The university invites the public to join the celebration at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 12, at Arnold Hall, located at 1810 Bull Street.
The genesis of Wallace’s Savannah Women of Vision initiative, which elevates a traditionally underrepresented – and yet tremendously influential – demographic, can be traced to the 1930s’ Works Progress Administration mural featured in the historic Arnold Hall theater. The mural, a visual ode to the titans of Savannah’s history, is notable in its omission of women. This imbalance is especially disconcerting given studies that prove strong female leadership has a salutary influence on society as a whole.
By symbolically righting the historical record, Wallace adds ten paragons of civic virtue to whom students – men and women alike – can look for inspiration. The university will offer tours of the Women of Vision portrait installation in Arnold Hall to K-12 students and educators. A free curriculum guide provides historic context to the portrait installation.
As Wallace explains, “Savannah as we know it rests on the triumphs of its women — mothers, entrepreneurs, authors, patriots, philanthropists. I created the Savannah Women of Vision to illuminate trailblazers and their transcendent work, keeping their names and deeds not only in our hearts, but publicly acclaimed. These are our heroines.”
With this timely tribute, Wallace salutes 10 Women of Vision: Mary Musgrove Matthews Bosomworth, Abigail Minis, Mother Mathilda Beasley, Juliette Gordon Low, Flannery O’Connor, Nancy N. Lewis, Emma Morel Adler, Frances Wong, Alice Andrews Jepson and Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears. Each woman is drawn from the ranks of history and modernity, spanning class and creed. Milestones from their lives and legacies are enumerated below.
Savannah Women of Vision
Mary Musgrove Matthews Bosomworth (ca. 1700 – ca. 1765)
Mary Musgrove Matthews Bosomworth was a pivotal interpreter, negotiator and cultural liaison between the English colonists and the local Native Americans. Notably, General James Oglethorpe and Chief Tomochichi were only able to communicate, and, ultimately, reach accord, through Bosomworth’s multilingual prowess and adroit diplomacy.
Abigail Minis (1701 – 1794)
Abigail Minis, known as the “mother of Savannah’s Jewish community,” numbered among the first 40 Jewish settlers to arrive in Savannah, where she became a founding member of the U.S.’s third oldest Jewish congregation. She was also a staunch supporter of the American Revolution, supplying the defenders of Savannah with money, food, ammunition and uniforms.
Mother Mathilda Beasley (1832 – 1903)
Mother Mathilda Beasley, Georgia’s first African American nun, once ran a secret, illegal school to educate African American children during the mid 1800s. Mother Beasley went on to donate her considerable estate to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in order to establish the St. Francis Home for Colored Orphans, which she operated for the remainder of her life. She also founded Georgia’s first group of African American nuns, the Third Order of St. Francis.
Juliette Gordon Low (1860 – 1927)
Juliette Gordon Low formed the American Girl Guides patrol in Savannah with 18 registrants in 1912. This group, now known as the Girl Scouts, includes approximately 3 million members in 92 countries and nearly 60 million alumnae. Today, Low remains an inspiration to generations of Girl Scouts, embodying the courage, confidence and character to which the troops aspire.
Flannery O’Connor (1925 – 1964)
Born in Savannah, Flannery O’Connor was one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Her short stories, novels, correspondence and essays earned her several important accolades including three O. Henry Awards, the National Book Award, grants from the Ford Foundation and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Rinehart-Iowa Fiction Award, a Kenyon Review fellowship, inclusion in the Best American Short Stories anthology and much more.
Nancy N. Lewis (1927 – present)
Nancy N. Lewis and her family continue to give and work in the name of public education, art and health. Local secondary learning academies and bastions of higher education, including SCAD, have benefited from her support. Since the opening of the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion at St. Joseph’s Candler, Savannah has become known for its elite patient care.
Emma Morel Adler (1930 – present)
Emma Morel Adler has served on the Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education, the Georgia Humanities Council, the Lucas Theatre for the Arts and the Savannah Council on World Affairs, securing Savannah’s future through public education, cultural stewardship and historic preservation, of which she is an ardent and outspoken national advocate. In Savannah, the Massie Heritage Center shines as Emma’s masterpiece.
Frances Wong (1940 – 2010)
Frances Wong was a lifelong educator. After a celebrated career in the Savannah-Chatham Public School System, where she was beloved by thousands of school children and their parents, she joined higher education and spent 10 years in administrative leadership roles at SCAD, including vice president for academic services and vice president for student affairs.
Alice Andrews Jepson (1942 – present)
Alice Andrews Jepson has a passion for local education, healthcare, art and culture. The Bethesda Academy, the Jepson Center for the Arts, the Jepson House Education Center, Memorial University Medical Center, Savannah Country Day School, Savannah Philharmonic, the SCAD Museum of Art and others are testament to her positive influence and generous investment in the community.
Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears (Ret.) (1955 – present)
A former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, Leah Ward Sears was the first woman and youngest person to sit on the Supreme Court of Georgia, as well as the first African American to serve as chief justice on any supreme court in the U.S. She is currently a partner and practice group leader at Schiff Hardin.
SCAD: The University for Creative Careers
The Savannah College of Art and Design is a private, nonprofit, accredited university offering more than 100 academic degree programs in 42 majors across its locations in Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia; Hong Kong; Lacoste, France; and online via SCAD eLearning. SCAD enrolls 12,500 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 100 countries. The innovative SCAD curriculum is enhanced by advanced professional-level technology, equipment and learning resources, as well as opportunities for internships, professional certifications and collaborative projects with corporate partners. In 2015, the prestigious Red Dot Design Rankings placed SCAD in the top four universities in the Americas and Europe. Career preparation is woven into every fiber of the university, resulting in a superior alumni placement rate. In a study of Spring 2014 SCAD graduates, 97 percent were employed, pursuing further education or both within 10 months of graduation.
For more information, visit the official SCAD blog.
SCAD, director of university communications