Savannah College of Art and Design President Under Scrutiny for Financial Impropriety

SAVANNAH, GEORGIA—For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Alan Judd reports on the controversial conduct and practices of Paula Wallace, the founder and president of the Savannah College of Art and Design. Wallace has been accused of using the school as a platform for her personal ambitions at the expense of students, numerous financial improprieties, securing high-paying jobs for members of her family, and stifling academic freedom. In 2014 the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Wallace was the highest-paid college president in the United States, far ahead of the presidents of much larger universities. That year, Wallace received from the school $9.6 million in salary and bonuses, properties in Savannah, Atlanta, and France, assistants to manage her personal affairs, and reimbursed travel on private jets, among other rewards. In each of the last five years, her compensation has exceeded $2 million.

“Wallace, 69, exerts near-total control over the school’s operations and, maybe just as important, its image,” Judd writes. “From furnishing for campus buildings (which she chooses) to the school song (which she wrote), Wallace put her imprimatur on all things SCAD. The school silenced dissenters with non-disclosure agreements and threats of lawsuits. It forbade employees from speaking publicly about SCAD without Wallace’s permission in writing. It fired some who reported improprieties or questioned Wallace’s compensation.”

SCAD currently enrolls over 14,000 students in its graduate and undergraduate divisions, accepting ninety-four percent of applicants. Annual tuition and fees total $50,000, which most students rely on loans to afford. Wallace and her former husband, Richard Rowan, established the school in 1978 as one of the southeastern United States’ first art schools. It now has campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s investigation can be read in full here.


December 12, 2017