Mines News

Release Date Tuesday, October 12, 2021

High Impact Hardrocker - Geraldean Lynn Fluke

Dr. Geraldean Lynn Fluke. 

Geraldean Lynn was born January 7, 1926, in Winner, South Dakota.  She was the middle one of three sisters. When she was six years old, her parents escaping the grasshoppers and the dust bowl moved the family to Deerfield in the western Black Hills. She attended a small country school there through the ninth grade. Her family tradition was that one went on to high school.  She joined her older sister in Rapid City where both attended the high school. They lived in rented rooms and worked to earn their “keep.” Given the transportation issues and the late depression economy, they probably only visited home in Deerfield a few times other than Christmas during the school year. After her older sister had graduated high school, her younger sister joined her at the high school to continue the family attendance.  Geraldean graduated in 1943.

She obtained an appointment as a teacher in one of the rural schools. This was the height of World War II with many shortages including teachers; rural school boards would hire promising high school graduates as teachers. Readers of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books will recall that Laura went from high school graduation to a teaching role without further schooling.

In 1944, Geraldean enrolled in South Dakota Mines and began her college education.  She graduated in 1948 with a BS in Physics. She joined the General Electric works in Hanford, Washington, working on nuclear reactor design and testing.  She met there, and in 1952, married Gordon Fluke who was a World War II veteran and Chemical Engineer by way of Oregon State University. In 1953, the Flukes joined Boeing Airplane Company in Seattle where Geraldean conducted analyses and experiments on aerodynamic heating.  In 1955 they moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, for Gordon’s career and there Geraldean began graduate studies in Nuclear Physics.

In 1957, she and Gordon joined Aerojet General in Sacramento, California, Geraldean performed analyses on various aspects of rocketry in the pioneering Polaris program. She also participated in firing tests and evaluations of those test results. Her work at Aerojet General was on classified projects, so she did not have an opportunity to build a publication record. This was also the situation at both General Electric and Boeing. In 1968, the Flukes moved to Southern California where she accepted a position with the U.S. Air Force Rocket Propulsion Lab at Edwards Air Force Base.

In 1970, she and Gordon decided that they wanted their two children to have the experience of growing up in a less frenetic environment than California. One more like she had experienced in rural South Dakota.  They moved to the Black Hills. Geraldean was offered a position at Edgemont High School teaching mathematics and physics. For the next dozen years, she gave her students a solid foundation in these subjects. Many of her students went on to college in various STEM fields as well as law and education. Quite a few matriculated at South Dakota Mines including her son Douglas Fluke (ChE 82).

Along the way, while teaching at Edgemont High, Geraldean sat for the professional engineering examination and was licensed in 1973, nineteen days after her 47th birthday.

In 1982, the Flukes rejoined Aerojet General in Sacramento.  She began working on a new generation of solid propellant rockets performing analysis and testing.  This again involved many visits to the testing facilities in Southern California. In 1992, she and Gordon officially retired moving to Missoula, Montana.  Her retirement was interrupted a year later when she took a temporary assignment in Rapid City as Technical Coordinator for ECO-Chem Network, an endeavor started by her son. As she was in Rapid City, she decided to enroll in a Ph.D. program in Atmospheric, Environmental and Water Resources (AEWR) at South Dakota Mines. Four years later in 1997, she received the first doctorate in this program.   Following this, she accepted a faculty position teaching mathematics and physics at Aaniih Nakoda College on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana. Geraldean taught there for several years; then returning to Missoula, she officially and finally retired from her various works. Of her adult life, she spent ten years as a student, thirty years as an engineer and nearly twenty years as a teacher.

She was awarded South Dakota Mines’ Guy March Silver Medal for Professional Accomplishments in 1999. She was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2010.

One has the impression that Geraldean was always engaged in some activities over and above the official ones. After a four-year gap, she completed her master’s degree work at the University of Michigan in 1962 while taking a short leave from her work at Aerojet General. She participated (hands on) in building their house in Seattle as well as a vacation cabin in Squaw Valley. She invested in additional “fixer-up” properties, again hands on in the fixer-up phase. She and Gordan continuously added improvements to their ranch in the Black Hills. Geraldean received an award from the U.S. Forest Service in 2016 recognizing the Reclamation and Conservation accomplishments on this ranch.  She was a dedicated and accomplished fisher of trout from childhood. She was also known as a superb cook.  She took up chess as a hobby after settling in Missoula and became proficient. The only thing she could not do well was to stay retired.

 After a full life, well lived, she died in 2019 at the age of 93.

Article by Mines alumnus Donn Lobdell (ME 58). 

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About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,418 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 97 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $66,150. For these reasons College Factual ranks South Dakota Mines, the #1 Engineering School for Return on Investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram and Snapchat.

Contact: Mike Ray, 605-721-7865, mike.ray@sdsmt.edu