Society / Profiles

Throwback Thursday — A Fashionable Dallas Philanthropist Takes Us Back to the ’80s

"I Don't Cringe at the Girl I Was Back Then. I Actually Love Her." - Jennifer Karol

BY // 05.21.20

I wasn’t surprised to learn that Jennifer Karol was president of her freshman, sophomore, and junior classes at her high school in Duncan, the small town in Oklahoma where she was born and raised. She was smart and ambitious. She had to be. As the youngest of four sisters, with parents who were schoolteachers, it was expected that the girls would attend state colleges and get scholarships. And so Jennifer did, studying journalism at University of Oklahoma.

Being an only child with only one living parent, I’ve created my own family. Jennifer is my sister. She has that quality where you instantly feel part of her loving world. She’s always engaging, and her soulful hazel eyes are always on you. Those eyes express so many things: knowingness and compassion, strength and fragility.

Jennifer met her husband, Tom Karol, 15 years ago, and she was immediately taken with his courage and optimism about the future. They wed soon after, each bringing children to create a family of seven: her son, Whit, and daughter, Katie, and Tom’s sons Jim, Jess, and Thomas.

On to Jennifer’s style. Well, she has it in spades. She can be spotted at Dior parties around the globe, given that she is a loyal client. Her Preston Hollow home is filled with powerful contemporary art and a certain casual-cerebral vibe. You can check it out: It was featured in Architectural Digest online earlier this year. Jennifer simply has cool in her DNA.

She brings all of that to her work as a community leader. She co-chaired a monumental Art Ball with Catherine Rose for the Dallas Museum of Art in 2013 and was recently honored by the Lamplighter School, which her children attended and which she continued to support for many years. But Planned Parenthood is her true cause. In March, Jennifer co-chaired the annual Planned Parenthood luncheon alongside Kara Goss, working countless hours raising awareness and securing close to $1.5 million in funds.

When I asked the organization’s leaders about Jennifer, the responses came flooding in. President and CEO Ken Lambrecht effused, “Jennifer Karol is an absolute inspiration.” Melissa Gendason, a gifts officer, carried on with “I am in awe of her. She is fearless in her willingness to recruit, ask, and advocate.”

James Banks co-founder Heidi Nahser Fink (left) with customers Jennifer Karol and Nini Nguyen

When we got together recently at Park House, Jennifer was wearing an architectural white blouse. It reminded me of the women senators who showed solidarity at the State of the Union by wearing white, modern versions of a suffragette who believes in the hard-won rights of women and all that have been disenfranchised. Look for me driving around town with a bumper sticker that says: Vote Karol 2020.

Approximate date of this photo.
September 1980.

The occasion.
My high school was kind of like Footloose! It would not allow dances, so in the ’40s, a few girls formed social clubs to host their own events. There were three dances a year, and since we really did not have a social scene besides Friday night lights and sitting at a Dairy Queen on Saturdays, this was exciting for us. This photo is from my sophomore Kick Off Dance, and I asked my friend Jack. By the way, the girls asked the boys to all of the dances. How progressive is that for a small town in the ’80s?

What were you wearing?
A green checked button-down polo and green baggy corduroys by Ralph Lauren. The polo horse was a very esteemed status symbol back then. And I’m positive the outfit was from [the iconic Oklahoma clothing store] Harold’s. I was not allowed to wear high heels until college.

What price fashion.
I cannot remember how much Ralph Lauren cost, but it felt priceless.

Why this is a picture.
It represents the simple times of growing up. I don’t cringe at the girl that I was back then. I actually love her.

When others see a home,
We see a Work of Art
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