The fall 2018 proposal deadline is September 28, 2018.
Contact Alexandra de Havilland, Assistant Director, with any inquiries.
Tel: (919) 681-0475.

The Trent Foundation was established in 1977 by Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans and her second husband, Dr. James H. Semans, to honor the memory of her first husband, Dr. Josiah Charles Trent. Twice a year, in the spring and the fall, the Fund assists Duke University faculty and staff by providing modest grants for projects whose funding might be difficult to obtain from other sources. With the passing of Ms. Semans, the foundation has transitioned into the Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation Endowment Fund.

Selected grants awarded from spring 2018 cycle:

Human Sexual Function
Dr. John S. Wiener

“Symposium on Sexual Function in Adults with Spina Bifida”

Medical History
Professor James Chappel

“Alzheimer’s Disease: A Global History”

Professor Valeria Finucci

“The King, the Duke, and the Art of Brain Surgery”

Medical Ethics and Humanities

Professor Cate I. Reilly

“Head Count: Psychiatry, Literature, and the Census in Late Imperial Russia”

Dr. Charles D. Scales Jr.

“Our Bedside Story: Reducing Depersonalization with Narrative Medicine ”

International Studies

Ms. Nancy Kalow

“Documentary and the Middle East: A conference on Teaching Through Documentary Research ”

Ms. Elizabeth Landesberg

“Another Kind of Girl Collective”

Professor Adam Mestyan

“The League of Nations and the Arab Kings, 1920-1936”

Dr. Tony V. Pham
Dr. Brandon Kohrt

“The Effect of Nepali Traditional Healers on Mental Well-Being”

Professor Daniel J. Stulac

“The Destroyed City as Grazing Space: Interpretive Possibilities in the Book of Isaiah ”

Mr. Sean Swanick
Ms. Heidi Madden

“Engaged Theater and Contemporary Politics in Turkey”

Professor Laura Wagner
Mr. Craig Breaden

“Bringing Radio Haiti Home: Outreach and Dissemination of the Radio Haiti Archive”


The Fund is most interested in work that tests new ideas, projects that share cutting-edge work, or conferences or symposia that promote intellectual engagement by the Duke community. We encourage applications from junior faculty.

Advice to Applicants

We welcome and encourage inquiries from applicants regarding the fit of their projects with the foundation’s interests.

Contact Alexandra de Havilland for information. Tel: (919) 681-0475.

See the Proposal Requirements & Reporting Guidelines for more information.

Areas of Funding

Human Sexual Function

Clinical or laboratory research involving human sexuality or reproduction, with emphasis on the psychobiological aspect of sexual function and dysfunction.

Medical History

Research projects, conferences, speakers, etc. in the area of medical history.

Medical Ethics and Medical Humanities

Conferences, speakers, or research on ethical issues in the fields of medical and biomedical research, treatment and practice as well as in the areas of medical professionalism, mind/body connection, spirituality/faith, and related topics; in short, humanism in medicine.

International Studies

The Fund’s international studies grant-making intends to increase faculty and student knowledge of other countries and/or to deepen cultural exchange. The Fund supports conferences, lectures, research, and other projects that will have a broad impact on the Duke community. We encourage projects that engage students in significant ways and that may encourage students to consider diplomatic careers. Students are not eligible for direct funding. (Note: The guidelines for this funding area were revised in 2007.)

What we fund

The Fund offers support to Duke faculty and staff for research projects, invited speakers, seed funding for pilot projects, research service learning if faculty involvement is essential to the project and the student will produce an intellectual product, and other program support. In the case of conferences, we prefer to support those held at Duke, but will consider proposals for those elsewhere. Grants normally average $3,000, with a maximum of $5,000, and are available for one year. A second request for the same project has a diminished chance of funding. If successive proposals are submitted, a summary of previous Trent funding and the relationship of the initial results to the additional request are required.

What we do not fund

The Fund does not support indirect costs or publication subventions and generally will not support visiting scholars. Neither undergraduates nor graduate students are eligible to apply for grants.

Trent Foundation Endowment Fund Committee


Dr. and Mrs. James H. Semans


Josiah C.T. Lucas
Charlotte, NC

Committee Members

Trent Jones
Ketchum, ID

Ken Harris
Matthews, NC

Margaret Humphreys, M.D.
Durham, NC

Erika Weinthal, PhD.
Durham, NC

Charles Piot, PhD.
Durham, NC


Carol Vorhaus
Executive Director

Alexandra de Havilland
Assistant Director

Trent Foundation History

The Trent Foundation was established in 1977 by Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans and her second husband, Dr. James H. Semans, to honor the memory of her first husband, Dr. Josiah Charles Trent. The foundation assists Duke University faculty and staff by providing seed grants for projects addressing medical history, medical humanities, human sexual function, and international studies. Since its inception, the Trent Foundation has awarded 504 grants totaling more than $1.39 million to Duke faculty and staff members. Together with members of the Trent and Semans families, the foundation also established the Josiah Charles Trent Professorship in the History of Medicine and the Josiah Charles Trent Scholar in Medical Humanities at Duke University, to support two of Dr. Trent’s lifelong passions.