Businesswoman Lilly Fong was the first Asian American to serve on the Board of Regents for the Nevada System of Higher Education. She was an advocate for education during her fifty-two years in Las Vegas.
Lilly Ong Hing was born in Arizona on June 17, 1925. She attended Arizona State University and Woodbury College in Los Angeles, where she met future husband Wing Fong. After the couple married in 1950, they moved to Las Vegas, where Wing had grown up.
The Fongs operated many successful Las Vegas businesses, including the popular restaurant and local landmark, Fong's Garden. Lily also worked as an elementary school teacher and supported the American Association of University Women. In the late 1960s, Fong's interest in the performing arts inspired her to play an instrumental role in fundraising for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas' Artemus Ham Concert Hall, Judy Bayley Theater, and Alta Ham Hall.
Fong served on the Board of Regents from 1974 until 1985. As a regent, she identified sources of funding for higher education and encouraged the increased development of UNLV in order to keep pace with the growth of Las Vegas. In addition, Fong established an endowment fund for the Chinese Program in the Department of Foreign Languages. In 1985, the geosciences building at UNLV was named in her honor.
The Board of Regents designated Fong and her husband Distinguished Nevadans for Southern Nevada in 1998. She died on March 19, 2002.
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