Our History

Mary Duke Biddle established the Foundation to implement her philanthropic objectives, and she gave the Trustees latitude to carry out and expand on her initial wishes as the future might dictate. Mrs. Biddle stipulated that half of grant funding go to Duke University, including its schools and programs, hospital, and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, which she gave to the University in honor of her mother. She also requested that consideration be given to the three churches she attended during her lifetime. Mrs. Biddle had a keen interest in the arts and was herself an accomplished musician. Mary D.B.T. Semans and James H. Semans, M.D., her daughter and son-in-law and long-time trustees, continued Mrs. Biddle’s interests and firmly established the Foundation as a champion of the arts. Under their leadership, the Foundation provided support to emerging artists, K-12 arts education, and organizations that use the arts to improve quality of life. In addition, the Foundation has supported social service organizations working to improve the human condition. Today, The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation continues a family tradition of philanthropy and commitment to enhance and improve the quality of life in the communities it supports.