Bernice Fischer speaks with friends

Bernice Fischer speaks with friends at the ceremony naming the Judy Bayley Theatre's lobby the Virlis and Bernice Fischer Gallery.

Nov. 21, 2022

Dean Nancy J. Uscher, Performing Arts Center Executive Director, and the entire College of Fine Arts extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of beloved arts philanthropist and 2009 UNLV College of Fine Arts Hall of Fame inductee, Bernice Fischer.

"Bernice was responsible for so many wonderful contributions to our college and to Las Vegas, including the Virlis and Bernice Fischer Gallery in the lobby of the UNLV Performing Arts Center's Judy Bayley Theatre," said Dean Uscher. "She will be missed." Bernice was born and raised in Texas.

She graduated from Texas State College for Women (now Texas Woman’s University) in 1941 with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish. She moved to Florida after graduation and then to Alabama, where she spent 32 years as an education specialist for Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

Bernice retired in 1973 and traveled with friends to South America where she met her future husband, Virlis Fischer. He resided in Las Vegas at the time they were married. The two traveled extensively for 19 years until his passing in 1992. Bernice described herself as “a Texan by birth, an Alabaman by career, and a Nevadan by marriage.”

As a young girl in rural Texas, Bernice had no opportunity to hear live concert music, visit an art gallery, or watch a dance troupe perform. "I wasn't introduced to the arts until I went to Texas Woman's University," she recalled. There, she developed a zeal for performing and visual arts, and since her arrival in Las Vegas, had been a dedicated supporter of all types of arts programs.

Bernice earned numerous awards for her philanthropy in the Las Vegas community and received the Governor's Award for the Arts in 1995. A longtime supporter of the UNLV College of Fine Arts, she enjoyed mentioning that her seats in the Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall were originally assigned to her by noted writer, producer, and former president of the Directors Guild, Charles Vanda, who was the director of the Performing Arts Center from 1967-88.

"We all need art in our lives, especially as young children," Fischer affirmed, in her signature Southern lilt. "My heart is with the arts, and we all should do our part to make sure they're not forgotten."