Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mary D.B.T. Semans: In Memoriam

Mary D.B.T. Semans
at the Roney Fountain dedication

We at Duke Gardens are saddened by this week’s passing of Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans, a longtime Duke Gardens supporter whose passion and generosity shaped the Gardens in dramatic ways.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens would not exist were it not for the vision and generosity of Mary Semans, her mother, Mary Duke Biddle, and her grandmother, after whom the Gardens is named.

Mrs. Semans often spoke of how much her mother loved flowers and gardening and how important Duke Medical School's Dr. Frederic Hanes was in influencing Mary Duke Biddle to establish the Terrace Gardens in memory of Mary’s grandmother, Sarah P. Duke.

Mary Semans and her late husband, James H. Semans, served as honorary members of the Duke Gardens Board of Advisors since its inception in 1991. And she participated in several major functions during the capital campaign to build the Doris Duke Center, which opened in 2001. She was also the honorary chair of the Gardens' 75th anniversary celebration in 2009.

The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation has continued the family's legacy of support in the Gardens. The foundation has provided operational support since 1972. It enabled the Gardens to start a children's program in 1995. And it contributed to last year's ambitious refurbishment and relocation of the century-old Roney Fountain from East Campus to Duke Gardens, as well as the expansion of the newly named Mary Duke Biddle Rose Garden surrounding the fountain. The fountain project, dedicated in Mrs. Semans' honor, earned an award last year from Preservation North Carolina.

In addition, the sundial in the Butterfly Garden was given to Duke Gardens by the Trent and Semans children in honor of Mary & James Semans' 35th wedding anniversary in 1988. And the gallery in the Doris Duke Center is named for Mary and James Semans.

"I've often said that people who really don't know Duke very well just love the Gardens," Mrs. Semans said at the 75th anniversary celebration. "I'm so thrilled that so many people from out of town come here. So many people from other countries. It's great. The more people who come, the better off it is."

Read more about Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans at Duke Today
See Mrs. Semans talk about how Duke Gardens came to be at 4:15 in this video.

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