On January 25, 2012, Mary Semans passed away at age 91. She was the granddaughter of Benjamin Duke and great-granddaughter of Washington Duke, for whom Duke University is named. Mrs. Semans was the principal link to Duke’s founding generation. As a teenager she moved from Manhattan to Durham to live with her grandmother, Sarah P. Duke. When she was 15, she enrolled at Duke, and the rest is history.
She will be greatly missed on a campus where her presence was a constant as she attended events and gatherings throughout the year. Mrs. Semans had a special relationship with the Friends of the Libraries. She was the longest serving chair of the Friends of the Libraries Executive Committee from 1952 until 1964. When she was chair, she graciously hosted meetings of the group at her home.
In 2010, she attended our Friends Annual Dinner to help commemorate the 80th Anniversary of the group she helped nurture. The image accompanying this article shows Mary Duke Biddle Trent (later Semans) pictured with Libraries Director Benjamin Powell at a Friends of the Libraries Annual Dinner on May 5, 1952.
For in depth coverage of her life, visit Duke Today.
Did you know that you can make a gift to support the Libraries and receive an income stream in return? One way of doing that is through a charitable remainder trust, often called a "CRT." Gifts to a CRT provide an income tax deduction as well. CRTs can be set-up to last for your lifetime or for a specific number of years. You get to direct where the trust "remainder" will be used at Duke - such as an unrestricted gift for the Library, Special Collections, or an endowment in your name to provide a permanent legacy for something you care about at Duke. Duke's Office of Gift Planning can provide personal examples and help you learn more about life income gifts or other ways to support Duke Libraries.
Phil Buchanan, Assistant Vice President, Gift Planning, describes CRTs in this fun video.
Friends of the Libraries partner with the Gothic Bookshop to hold a book collectors contest open to all undergraduate and graduate students every other year. In 2011, the contest took place in the lobby of Perkins Library. Students, staff, faculty and members of the community all attended and had a chance to talk with the collectors. Mitch Fraas and Orion Neal, both Ph.D. candidates in history, tied for first place in the graduate category. Jacob Golan, a freshman majoring in Earth and Ocean Sciences, won the undergraduate category. As winners of the Duke University contest, students are eligible to enter the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest in Washington, D.C. Mitch decided to represent Duke at the National contest. The extra effort paid off! Mitch won the contest with his collection of Anglo-American legal printing from 1702 to the present.
Once again, the Duke Libraries have teamed up with the Duke Marketing Club to organize the biggest social event on campus. Bringing together students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other members of the Duke community, Heroes & Villains: The Library Party promises to be a night of graphic fun, drawing inspiration from the Libraries’ vast collection of comic books. The event takes place Friday, February 24, from 9:00 p.m. to midnight, in Perkins Library and the von der Heyden Pavilion. Admission is free, and the entire Duke community is invited—including you!
The Libraries and Marketing Club have also organized a series of lectures leading up to the event on comic book history, comic collecting, and the artistry of comics. If you can’t make the party, join us for one of these talks. You can even meet Edwin Murray, one of the two Murray brothers who donated their incredible collection of comics to the Libraries, giving Duke one of the largest institutional collections of comics in the world.
As the Libraries and iTunes U introduced one hundred digitized transcripts and interviews documenting African American life in the Jim Crow South, national and local press took note. The collection can be accessed online by visiting a new Duke Libraries webpage or the iTunes Store site. In addition to being featured online, the project has received timely coverage on several public radio shows. Tell Me More broadcast a special program in November, the Michael Eric Dyson Show and The State of Things with Frank Stasio featured the collection in December.
On June 6, Duke Libraries and the Duke Alumni Association will host a tour and reception at the National Archives. If you have never visited the Archives, or even if you have, you don’t want to miss the rare opportunity to meet David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States (and former Duke University Librarian) and gain behind-the -scenes access to the vaults, where you will be able to view some of the Archives’ greatest treasures. A reception is planned after the tour. If you are interested, be sure to save the date. We will send additional information to alumni living in the DC area this spring.
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman
Robert K. Massie
Random House Publishing Group, 2011
Along with others, I have long maintained that Irving Stone was the quintessential writer of well-documented and engaging historical biographies; now, comes a possible usurper: Mr. Massie with his Catherine the Great, and what a tale tracing a minor Prussian noble's attainment of the longest female ruler as Empress and Autocrat of all the Russians. It's a kaleidoscopic account of the intrigues and beguilements in her life - astoundingly captivating.
Get the book (Kindle does NOT do justice), bring in provisions, and select the most comfortable reading location for a several-day journey - a most engaging read! This book is a sensual, educational, recoiling, exciting, and totally mesmerizing masterpiece. I am on my way to the Gothic Bookstore to order his other five books; Alexander the Great got the Pulitzer Prize for biography. That says it all; I'll wager that Catherine the Great follows.
Jim Harper T ‘59
This novel is a terrific read, especially if you are interested in British history. Don't be put off by the title, an acronym for "Failed in London, Try Hong Kong," the nickname of Sir Edward Feathers, QC. The story revolves around Edward's life, spanning the last years of the British Empire, from the 1930s to Hong Kong when it was still a colony. He was born in Malaya where his father was a Colonial administrator. His mother died soon after Edward was born and his father sent him to England at the age of five to board with a family in Wales. He never saw his father again. From this book I learned about "Raj Orphans" - children who were sent home at a young age to avoid the health problems in the tropics. Edward's childhood was miserable but he survived and became a successful barrister and judge in Hong Kong (hence his nickname.) He also married well and there is a companion volume about his wife called "The Man with the Wooden Hat." So if you enjoy "Old Filth" you can look forward to another book about the same characters, but from another point of view.
The book's narrative alternates between Sir Edward, now, in his 80s, and retired in Dorset, England, and scenes from his earlier life. Putting the story together is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, but Jane Gardam is such a brilliant and witty writer that I could hardly put it down. The characters are vivid and fascinating and their experiences sufficiently out of the ordinary without being unbelievable that it holds your attention throughout. For example, Edward's World War II assignment is to guard the Dowager Queen Mary, and his best friend is a Chinese dwarf. It's like being at a dinner party with really interesting witty people.
Margaret Brill, Librarian for Britain/Ireland, Canada, Australasia and World History
The Hidden Reality
The question "What is the nature of reality?" fascinates us and has produced answers ranging from Plato's cave to the TV show Fringe. Brian Greene - serious physicist/ science popularizer (books and television) - presents the Multiverse ("parallel universes") view of the problem using scintillating analogies and pictorials, relegating the mathematical underpinning to endnotes. The book is scientifically comprehensive, yet contains sufficient philosophical speculation to hold the attention of the non-technical reader from beginning to end: a must read for those with an interest in the latest theories of Cosmology.
Yet it has a disturbing undercurrent, expressed in both the book's title and the first sentence of the Preface: ". . . when it comes to revealing the true nature of reality, common [italics added] experience is deceptive." Later Greene recounts an undergraduate conversation he had with a philosopher about Ultimate Reality. If that professor's subject had been religion or German literature, the conversation might have turned from the truth of mathematics to Gnosticism or Faust, and what quests for arcana reveal about the quester. This book is worthwhile and tells you what The Cleverest Kid in the Room thinks about the problem. However, if you want to know what The Smartest Kid in the Room thinks, read Cycles of Time by Roger Penrose (but be prepared for heavy doses of college level physics and math in both the text and notes).
Mark Kearney G' 69
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