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Carolyn Farb Papers

Identifier: 2000-005

The collection primarily contains papers, photographs, and newspaper clippings, the majority pertaining to Carolyn Farb's 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.


  • 1955-2011
  • Majority of material found within 2000-2011


Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Special Collections owns the physical items in our collections, but copyright normally belongs to the creator of the materials or their heirs. The researcher has full responsibility for determining copyright status, obtaining permission to publish from copyright holders, and abiding by current copyright laws when publishing or displaying copies of Special Collections material in print or electronic form. For more information, consult the appropriate librarian. Reproduction decisions will be made by Special Collections staff on a case-by-case basis.


123.0 linear feet

Biographical Information

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 hard work and 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.

Farb became actively involved in fundraising in the 1970s, when she worked with groups such as the Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation, the Alley Theatre, and KUHT, Houston's public television station. The scope of her activities increased greatly during the 1980s, a period of boom and bust in Houston. Farb's zero-budget philosophy, her attention to detail, and her enthusiasm enabled her to raise record amounts of funds in a strained economy. In 1983, she was the first person in Texas to raise $1 million in one evening, for the Stehlin Foundation for Cancer Research's "Million Dollar Evening." In 1987, Farb chaired "An Evening of Hope" for the Bering Community Service Foundation, which benefited AIDS patients. Until that time, this disease had received scant positive attention and very little funding.

In the early 1990s, Farb's efforts increased public awareness of another devastating disease, neurofibromatosis, with two fundraisers: "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" and "I've Got a Crush on You." She has chaired several events benefiting the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, including "Marvin's Million Dollar Dream" for prostate and breast cancer research. Other health-related recipients include the Myasthena Gravis Foundation, the American Paralysis Association, the Leukemia Society of America, Cancer Fighters, United Cerebral Palsy, the Arthritis Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the March of Dimes.

Carolyn Farb's fundraising activities have also benefited various women's and children's causes, the homeless, and animals. These include the Ms. Foundation's Stars of Texas Gala, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and the Pink Ribbons Project, Dancers in Motion Against Breast Cancer. Farb has worked in conjunction with the Rotary Clubs International to raise funds for Nicaraguan children devastated by earthquakes, and has chaired several UNICEF events. Other recipients include the Girl Scouts of America, the Star of Hope Mission, the Children's Miracle Network, and the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Farb's work has also enriched the arts and educational communities in Houston. She has raised money for the Alley Theatre, the Contemporary Arts Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Houston Grand Opera, and the Society for the Performing Arts, among others. In 1996, she chaired the fundraising campaign for the Byzantine Fresco Chapel, specially constructed to house medieval frescoes in danger of destruction. The University of Houston has benefited from her efforts: the "Quest for Excellence" in 1999 raised funds to create an endowed chair in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and the "Blueprint Ball" in 2003 to create the Philip Johnson Endowed Chair in the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture.

Farb has received numerous accolades for her work. These include the Volunteers of America's Outstanding Human Service Award, the YWCA's Woman of the Year Award, the Dr. Robert Graves Award from the Thyroid Society for Education and Research, the David and Sybil Yurman Humanitarian Foundation Thoroughbred Award, and the Challenger Center Seven Award. In recognition for her work on behalf of neurofibromatosis patients, the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in 1992 created and endowed a permanent visiting professorship in neurofibromatosis in her name. She was named a Distinguished Woman by Northwood University in 1996, and was inducted into the Texas Philanthropy Hall of Fame in 1997. In 2003 Northwood University awarded her an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities.

Farb has served the community in roles other than fundraiser. She has served on numerous boards of directors and advisory boards in Houston, including the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the Harris County Hospital District, the Greater Houston AIDS Alliance, the High School for Visual and Performing Arts, the Houston Public Library, and the Rothko Chapel Foundation.

In the 1980s she was involved in Republican Party fundraising on the local and state levels, and she attended both the 1981 and 1985 Presidential Inaugurals.

She is an accomplished writer who has contributed articles to Andy Warhol’s magazine, Interview, and to bRILLIANT magazine. 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. Farb has been involved in film and television projects, and served as associate producer for the film, Dorothy Hood: The Color of Life.

Carolyn Farb is a native Houstonian. She attended the University of Oklahoma, where she studied journalism. She has been married to Richard Shulman and Harold Farb. She was predeceased by her son, Jake Kenyon Shulman, in September 2004.

To know more about Ms. Farb please see her web site:

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donations from Carolyn Farb, 2000-2004.

Additional materials were acquired in 2011 as part of a donation by Carolyn Farb.

Guide to the Carolyn Farb Papers
Joanie South-Shelley, Cecilia Bonnor, Timothy Wyatt
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Revision Statements

  • 2021-07-15: As a part of the 2021 Special Collections reparative description project, Brooks Whittaker added subject headings to these finding aids to better represent individuals and promote discoverability of collection materials.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections Repository

University of Houston Libraries Special Collections
MD Anderson Library
4333 University Drive
Houston TX 77204-2000 USA