Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) President and Founder Paula Wallace celebrated Georgia history with two new Women of Vision honorees. Recognizing women of peerless valor, altruism and intellect, the investiture welcomed Suzanne Shank and Clermont Lee into its elite cadre of Savannah trailblazers. The university invited the public to join the celebration on Friday, February 14 at Arnold Hall, located at 1810 Bull St.
As a permanent tribute, gold relief portraits of the Lee and Shank, carved by SCAD alumnus Michael Porten (M.F.A., painting, 2012; B.F.A., illustration, 2004), now adorn the walls of Arnold Hall, home to SCAD’s School of Liberal Arts.
SCAD President and Founder Paula Wallace said, “These are the heroines of our stories today, women who, often at great risk to themselves, act for the benefit of others. Heroes, in fact, are defined as those who have a passion for rescuing or saving people, homes, cities, for making the world a better place.
This year’s honorees joined the 15 other women inducted in 2018 and 2016: Emma Morel Adler, Mother Mathilda Beasley, Mary Musgrove Matthews Bosomworth, Miriam Center, Edna Jackson, Alice Andrews Jepson, Nancy N. Lewis, Juliette Gordon Low, Abigail Minis, Mary Lane Morrison, Flannery O’Connor, Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, Fredericka Washington, Sema Wilkes, and Frances Wong.
“The idea of Savannah Women of Vision is to take up space — to intentionally shine light on the women founders and leaders and inventors and movers and shakers of Savannah. Women who have agency, who have devoted courage and sustained intellectual effort to their work, to our city,” said Wallace.
Clermont Lee was one of the first women to lead a landscape architecture practice in Georgia, the foremost expert in recreating historic landscapes in mid-20th century Savannah.
“Clermont Lee, was known for her warmth and genuine caring for others, as well as her eye for natural beauty. She could transform any greenspace into delightful perfection,” Wallace said. “For Clermont, everything, from the planting of trees and blooming camellias to the placement of a garden bench, was intentional. And somehow, just right.”
Savannah native Suzanne Shank is a lauded veteran of the investment banking industry and recently named one of the 50 Most Influential Black Women in Business.
Wallace said, “Like SCAD, Suzanne continues to defy exclusionary history and define what can be. Suzanne is a true beacon of intellectual and moral courage. In an industry traditionally owned by men, she’s always the smartest person in the room. Suzanne is the kind of person who keeps moving forward.”
Wallace created Savannah Women of Vision to elevate recognition of strong female leadership and its salutary influence on society. She chose Arnold Hall for the investiture to right the historical record inbuilt in the theater, where a grand 1930’s New Deal-era mural depicts titans in Savannah history–notable in its omission of women. With the addition of this year’s two honorees, Wallace continues a vital tradition of civic recognition for the city, commending and commemorating the profound influence of women whose ingenuity and dedication have indelibly shaped Savannah.
The public ceremony was hosted by 2018 Women of Vision inductees: former Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson and Miriam Center, along with SCAD alumnus Cecilia Marshall.
Throughout the year, the university offers tours of the Women of Vision installation in Arnold Hall to K-12 students and educators. A free curriculum guide provides historic context to the portrait installation. For more information or to schedule a tour, visit scad.edu/ savannahwomenofvision.