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Trinity University Accelerates Science Education Through Record Gift
The D. R. Semmes School of Science is a catalyst for Trinity to reshape the future of the liberal arts through a focus on the sciences

With the largest gift in Trinity’s history of $26.5 million by the Semmes Foundation, Trinity University now boasts the newly named D. R. Semmes School of Science. This transformational gift will bolster the University’s commitment to the liberal arts through the exploration and problem-solving inspired by and realized through the sciences.

“This investment by the Semmes Foundation accelerates our goal to deliver the best undergraduate science education in the U.S.,” says Vanessa B. Beasley, Ph.D., president of Trinity University. “Trinity and the Semmes Foundation have long been partners in opportunities for undergraduate science education, and this historic investment will help us advance our mission to deliver world-class teaching and increase students’ access to research opportunities in STEM.”

At the Summer Undergraduate Research and Internships Symposium, Trinity students who participate in sponsored research and internship programs present their learnings to the community.

“The sciences are at the core of a broad liberal arts education, and Trinity fundamentally understands this. We are creating the next generation of scientists across an array of disciplines that will address the world’s major questions,” says Tom Semmes, president of the Semmes Foundation.

The D. R. Semmes School of Science houses the Departments of Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth and Environmental Geosciences, Engineering Science, Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy, Psychology, and three interdisciplinary programs: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Mathematical Finance, and Neuroscience. The gift will endow the dean of science position and two science faculty positions, provide dedicated funding for undergraduate research opportunities, and support faculty and professional development.

Beginning their first years, Trinity students have access to state-of-the-art laboratory equipment and research opportunities normally only available at the graduate level.

“Trinity has benefited from decades of support from the Semmes Foundation,” says Ted Beneski P’11, P’14, chair of Trinity’s Board of Trustees. “Tom’s long-standing service as a trustee and Pat’s current role on the Board demonstrate their deep commitment to this University and its students. We are honored by their presence and leadership.”

The Semmes Foundation was established in 1952 by Dr. Douglas Ramsay (D. R.) Semmes (1892-1976), an independent oil geologist who received his doctorate from Columbia University in 1917 and worked in oil and gas exploration worldwide. Beyond his career in geology, Semmes worked briefly in academia, but it is at Trinity University where his greatest legacy in higher education is felt. The Semmes Foundation funded the Thomas Semmes Chemistry Hall when Trinity first came to its present campus, endowed a chemistry professorship, and established the Semmes Distinguished Scholars in Science Scholarship.

Kylie Moden ’17 was one such Semmes Scholar. Moden, who has built her career as a product manager at Microsoft,, and DoorDash, is a witness to the intersection of the liberal arts and the sciences. “It was so clear that Trinity was funding its sciences and valued its technology, where other liberal arts schools weren’t,” Moden said of arriving at Trinity as a first-year. “Sometimes, you might forget the humans on the other side of the software. Trinity showed me it cared about the human aspect of the sciences.”

Kylie Moden ’17, a Semmes Scholar and computer science major at Trinity, made interdisciplinary discoveries as a presenter at national conferences and a flutist in a Trinity ensemble.

“Trinity STEM graduates have talent, expertise, and perspective,” says Megan Mustain, Ph.D., provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. "The synergy between the humanities and the sciences is pivotal in nurturing critical and human-centered thinking, and in this regard, Trinity sits at the forefront.”

Trinity’s world-class faculty include the Semmes Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, an endowed position currently held by Jason Shearer, Ph.D.

“In so many ways, the Semmes Foundation has directly aided in the future and continuing success of all of the students I have had the privilege of mentoring at Trinity,” Shearer says. “I am most happy with the research experiences my students have been provided with thanks to the Semmes Foundation.”

Members of D. R. Semmes’ family are counted among Trinity’s past and current students. They include Douglas R. Semmes Jr. ’55 and wife Donna Semmes ’61; Elizabeth Semmes Waller ’56 and husband Clifford S. Waller ’57; and great-granddaughter Camille Semmes ’26.

Hear more from the Semmes Distinguished Scholars in Science:

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