Michele M. Fluck

August 5, 1940May 10, 2018

Michele M. Fluck, age 77 of East Lansing, passed away on Thursday, May 10, 2018. She was born on August 5, 1940 in Switzerland, where she spent the first three decades of her life.

Michele completed her PhD in 1972 on bacteriophage genetics at the University of Geneva. She then moved to the United States to undertake postdoctoral research, initially at the Public Health Research Institute of the City of New York and subsequently at the Harvard Medical School. While in Boston, she was active in Science for the People, an organization of scientists, educators and activists committed to the application of science for the benefit of humanity.

Dr. Fluck was recruited to Michigan State University to join what is now the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics as an Associate Professor in 1979. An internationally recognized researcher in virology, she was named a University Distinguished Professor in 1990. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, and the Leukemia Society of America, her research focused on the polyoma virus, aiming to elucidate both its mechanism of replication and its role in causing cancer. She was an enthusiastic and dedicated instructor of virology for both graduate and undergraduate students. Michele was active not only as a faculty member with research and teaching responsibilities, but also as an advocate for women’s equality and rights. In addition to the formal guidance that she provided to undergraduate and graduate students in her own research program, she mentored many female students and junior faculty. She provided input on women’s issues on campus through her service on numerous Women’s Advisory Committees to Provosts and Deans.

Michele had many interests outside of her academic career, including jazz and classical music, orchids, and snow skiing. Accomplished on the harpsichord and piano, Michele hosted chamber music concerts at her home and performed in a number of local venues. She bequeathed her lovely instruments to the MSU College of Music. Gardening, her pet cats, entertaining, and books were additional avocations.

Michele was preceded in death by her sister, Liliane Fluck and parents, Henriette Alice Fluck (formerly Delaloye) and Wilhelm Rudolf Fluck. She is survived by a brother, Jean-Philibert Fluck of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and a large number of friends, colleagues, and students, whose lives she impacted. Michele was a wonderful person, deeply caring and committed to her students and friends, generously supportive and always authentic.

Donations in Michele’s memory may be made to the Allen Creek Preschool (Ann Arbor), The Women’s Center of Greater Lansing, or the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics through the MSU College of Natural Sciences.

A formal remembrance ceremony will be held at Red Cedar Friends Meeting House in Lansing on Sept. 29th.

Share memories at


  • Remembrance Ceremony Saturday, September 29, 2018

Michele M. Fluck

have a memory or condolence to add?

Brian Schutte

September 30, 2018

In January of 2010, Michele and I organized a ski trip for the Genetics PhD program. We persuaded 12 grad students to join us: most were from south Asia and one was from a Caribbean island. Our goal was to show the students that there is life and fun in the out of doors in the middle of winter in Michigan. We started slow, on the "Magic Carpet" at Mt Holly Ski Resort, but by the end of the day 11 of 12 students were skiing independently across all runs, and I was trying to keep up with the 70 year young Michele. The students left that evening safe and happy, with a new appreciation for winter in Michigan, and I left with a new appreciation for my colleague Michele.

Sherif Ibrahim

September 30, 2018

I will never forget the moment when Dr. Fluck came back from a meeting with Dr. Bill Henry. Her first comment was, “He is the kind of man who does not think about himself only”. When she said that I thought, how we see others reflects what is inside ourselves, because this sentence reflected one of the great characteristics of Dr Fluck. She always considered others when making decisions or taking actions. She favored win-win scenarios.

The other standout characteristic is that she was very generous. She never missed a chance to spend money, time or effort for a good cause: whether political, humanitarian or personal. I thought of her as a person of "good causes”. Her care for others extended to the whole globe and served as a model. Every time I head to the recycle bin or turn on the faucet to wash my hands, I remember her. She always taught me how to keep our earth safe.

Finally, I feel it is an obligation to admit that my personal life was touched by both of these characteristics. Through the difficulties I faced, trying to finish my PhD, she was always thinking about how to get the best out of each situation. In addition, she stood by me in any financial difficulty I encountered as a graduate student with a family of seven. The pain of losing Dr Fluck is endless. It would be wise to overcome this pain and transform it in a positive energy that would push me to implement the great values I learned from her.

Chelsey Spriggs

September 29, 2018

Michele was my undergraduate research mentor and my friend. We met in 2008 after I sent an email requesting to work in her lab. Despite my lack of experience, she graciously accepted me. I spent three years working with her and she was instrumental in helping me decide my career path. It was Michele who encouraged me to apply for PhD programs and guided me through the application process.

Throughout the years, we often met to catch up when I was in town. The last time I saw her, in the spring of 2016, she asked what my ultimate goal was and I told her that it was to be like her. To teach and train and encourage young women in science towards biomedical research. She was so surprised at my response! That is a conversation that I am eternally grateful to have had with her.

I am extremely saddened by her passing, but will cherish the memories and lessons that she shared with me for the rest of my life. May her beautiful soul rest in peace.

Patricia Laurence

September 28, 2018

Shortly after I began teaching at the Community Music School in 2000, I offered a Baroque chamber music class in which anyone could participate, regardless of their level of string playing. Michelle showed up offering to play keyboard with us. Every week for numerous years, up until one year ago, she walked in, carrying her heavy electric keyboard over her shoulder. I could tell she was exhausted after a busy day at school, but this music was most important to her; I believe it fed her soul. She could make it sound similar to a harpsichord and it was the perfect compliment to our string group. Her playing was not only highly proficient, she kept our group of 8-10 people together harmonically and rhythmically. Hers was the one part that we depended on to stay together since the group plays with no conductor. One year I featured her playing with a Bach Brandenburg Concerto which features the harpsichord. She practiced the music diligently for months and gave an outstanding performance of it. Often one or more players skipped class because of work overload or illness, but Michelle showed up consistently every week without fail; I could always count on her! Her deep love of Baroque music and her appreciation for the highest professional performances was limitless. Once in a while she and I attended concerts in Ann Arbor together; that was when I realized how much she knew about the leading Baroque groups around the world and the great CDs that we enjoyed listening to. Her awareness of everything Baroque in the music world was truly unique and something I always enjoyed sharing with her. My chamber group will truly miss her sweet presence and her highly skilled playing as we meet again this semester. For me it will take some time to adjust to her absence; I will sadly be reminded of her whenever we play together. I will try to approach the music with the love and skill that Michelle showed. This is what she would have liked me to do.

Theresa Kaminski

September 14, 2018

With deep sorrow do I find myself writing a memory for a beloved mentor of mine. Dr. Fluck was an extraordinary woman with strength and perseverance. In 2014, she mentored me through my first research experience and gave me the autonomy to develop my own project. I remember sitting in her office amidst piles and piles of papers, folders, student exams as well as art and sculptures of places once traveled. She spoke from a genuine heart and instilled in me a sense of confidence in my abilities that I cannot ever forget or repay. Dr. Fluck absolutely loved discussing the endless possibilities of what could be revealed through her research. She never forgot the goal: to unlock the cure to cancer. She held onto it so firmly in her heart too. Dr. Fluck also had an adorable cat who received nothing but love and praise. When visiting her home, you would find the comforting sounds of the NPR daily report, the fragrance of old books worn down from use, and the colors of sculptures, artifacts and artwork collected from many places across the world.

Although I cannot be at her memorial service, I hope whoever reads this may learn a little piece of Dr. Fluck embedded in her mosaic life story. Words cannot express how much she impacted my life and how deeply I wish I could tell her thank you one last time. May her soul rest in peace always and forever.

Tom Benjamin

May 13, 2018

Michele’s passing is a very sad note for all who knew and admired her. I first met Michele around 1970-71 as she was completing her doctoral work under Professor Richard Epstein at the University of Geneva. Her thesis research on bacteriophage genetics disclosed the remarkable finding that the efficiency of chain termination in protein synthesis was subject to influences of ‘context’, i.e., sequences flanking the termination codon itself. The papers she published on her thesis served for many years as milestones in the teaching of molecular genetics. She joined my lab at the Public Health Research of the City of New York in 1972 as a postdoctoral fellow to work on polyoma virus. She moved with me to Harvard Medical School in 1972 for several years before joining the Faculty at Michigan State . Her contributions to the field of DNA tumor viruses were profound and extended throughout her career. More than a valued professional colleague, Michele was to me a dear friend, a person of unmistakable warmth and generosity. She was also an accomplished keyboard musician. Michele will be sorely missed and never forgotten.