This weekend the University of Houston campus will welcome over 30,000 visitors as we host Houston’s March for Babies, a fundraising event that has become a mainstay for the March of Dimes in their efforts to improve the health of babies. While the mission of March of Dimes has evolved over the years (having been founded as an agency by President Franklin Roosevelt to battle polio), their commitment to the health of newborns has made the March for Babies an event to rally around year after year.
However, fundraising for the March of Dimes does not begin and end in Houston on one weekend in April. The grind and grunt work of charitable fundraising is a year-round job and no name is more synonymous with that exceptional effort than the first lady of philanthropy, one Carolyn Farb. The March of Dimes as well as so many others have benefited from her tireless efforts over the years. Author of How to Raise Millions: Helping Others, Having a Ball! A Guide to Fundraising as well as The Fine Art of Fundraising: Secrets for Successful Volunteers (with an introduction from Robin Leach), Farb has been involved in fundraising in Houston since the 1970s and we are pleased to offer for study a vast treasure trove of her personal papers. It would be quite impossible to list here the number of charitable and non-profit organizations that have benefited from Farb’s efforts but, as the campus gets set to host the March for Babies, a journey into her archives sheds light on just some of her work with the March of Dimes during the 1970s and beyond.
In 1979 the old Summit sports arena hosted the March of Dimes Gourmet Gala that pitted local and national celebrities against one another as would-be chefs, preparing culinary concoctions in kitchen stations conceived by some of Houston’s top designers. Bernice and Bob Welch of Houston would take top honors with their symphony of Shrimp Crepes with Brie and Pinenut Sauce, but the Baked Alaska of Carolyn Farb and her partner, fashion designer Jimmy Galanos, held its own as it took home the second place prize. Of course, the March of Dimes and the children they serve were the real winners that evening.
Photographs, press coverage, and artifacts from the 1979 March of Dimes Gourmet Gala provide just one whimsical snapshot of Farb’s work in fundraising. For a more robust picture of the resources available related to Carolyn Farb and her charitable work, take a look at the detailed finding aid. As the spring semester winds down and students scramble to the task of final exams, opportunities for research on Saturdays are dwindling. Be sure to take some time to come see us on Saturday before you go out and March for Babies on Sunday.
The finding aid for the Carolyn Farb Papers is now back online after briefly being made unavailable while the collection was being reorganized.
The bulk of the Carolyn Farb Papers primarily contains papers, photographs, and newspaper clippings, the majority pertaining to her fundraising activities. The material has been arranged into twelve series: Fundraising Events, Honors and Awards, Organization Affiliations, Creative Works, Speeches, Personal Life, Correspondence, Scrapbooks and Yearbooks, Memorabilia, Printed Material, Photographic Material, and Video and Audio Recordings.
Carolyn Farb is an internationally known fundraiser, author, businesswoman, and philanthropist. During the past thirty years, she has raised over $25 million for a number of charities and worthy causes, the majority of which are based in Houston and benefit local organizations. Her work and tireless devotion to others have earned her the nickname “the first lady of philanthropy,” and she has received numerous accolades for her efforts. Farb’s interest in helping others began early in her life; as a teenager, she volunteered at the snack bar at Texas Children’s Hospital. Her beloved grandfather, Jake Freedman, a businessman in Las Vegas, fostered her spirit of giving.
A native Houstonian, Farb attended the University of Oklahoma, where she studied journalism. In 2003, in fulfilling a life-long dream she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Northwood University. She has written two books on fundraising: How to Raise Millions: Having a Ball, Helping Others in 1993, and The Fine Art of Fundraising: Carolyn Farb’s Secrets for Successful Volunteers in 2004. She was the mother of one son, Jake Kenyon Shulman, who passed away in 2004. An avid art collector, she loans many of her pieces to museums around the world.
What do all of the above have in common? They’re all represented in Special Collections holdings, and each have new finding aids up on TARO.