A large room on the second floor of Doherty Library contains a treasure trove of University of St. Thomas history, and the most valuable asset of all: 88-year-old “Miss Betty” Louise Koenig Fischer ’52, MRE ’91, official archivist.
As the oldest of six children in a strong Catholic home, Betty Koenig Fischer always knew she was meant to do something good with her life and not accept the status quo.
“Mom taught us that we were placed on this earth to make a difference,” Betty said. “Our parents didn’t preach it; they lived it.”
Her mom also instilled in Betty that she could do anything she set her mind to, and she set out to go to college and become a teacher.
Fischer Enrolls in University’s Second Class
Betty planned to attend a regional college focused on teacher education until Fr. Paul Michalka, from her home parish, visited her parents to talk about Houston’s recently opened Catholic university.
“Mom and I drove to campus in 1948 for an interview,” Betty said. “Fr. Guinan decided I was ‘a keeper,’ and I became part of the University’s second class.” Betty was highly engaged on the UST campus, serving as class vice president and earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1952.
In college, she was a tiny woman with big ideas, high standards and strong faith. When she first met Charles Fischer ’52, a member of the UST founding class, she thought he was tall and good-looking — but he did not impress her. Over time, however, the pair became friends as they worked on the school newspaper and served on committees appointed by the president. Eventually they began dating and fell in love.
Betty Builds a Life with Fellow Alumnus Charles
After graduation, Charles became a U.S. Naval officer, and Betty taught at a Houston elementary school. While on leave for a week, Charles arrived at her school in his dress uniform and proposed. She said no, telling him she wanted to earn a master’s degree first, but he kept asking. Finally, on Friday, she decided she would have to look long and hard to find a man as good, smart and faithful as Charles. She said yes, and after he completed his service, they married in 1955.
Betty and Charles raised three sons, actively engaged with their parish and their childrens’ schools, and stayed close to their alma mater. Betty earned a second degree from UST in 1991, a Master of Religious Education. Charles and Betty were happily married until his death in 2014. They have six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, and Betty says her family is her proudest legacy.
Fischer Tells UST’s Story as She Helps Create It
Fischer served as secretary and president of the UST Alumni Association, worked on various university committees, raised funds, chaired events and served on the Board of Trustees and Board of Directors.
Her family funded the Betty K. and Charles Fischer Classroom in Jerabeck Athletic Hall, the Betty Koenig Fischer Meeting Room in the Center for Science and Health Professions, in honor of Charles, and the Fischer Family Endowed Scholarship — all efforts to give back to a place that made a huge impact on her life.
Fischer’s list of life achievements is pages long, including publishing articles, speaking nationally and being named a 1987 Rev. Vincent J. Guinan Distinguished Alumni, alongside Charles and two others. While Fischer taught several years, most of her volunteer and paid work has related to creating or maintaining archives. She helped establish UST’s archives after Fr. Guinan’s death; she established the archives for St. Thomas High School; and she assisted in starting the archives for Kincaid High School.
“Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, ‘The journey taken is unknown to the traveler,’ and that’s my story,” Fischer said. “I’m just a small-town girl who came to the big city to go to school. Coming to UST was the best decision I ever made, and it has shaped my life journey in ways I never could have imagined. My work here is a joy and a privilege, and I pray I’ve made a difference in ways that would make my mother and father proud.”