Mom Next Door – Dr. Lily Van Vlack Bruckner

Dr. Lily Van Vlack Bruckner

Founder & President of the
Children’s Museum of the Black Hills

Growing up in the Black Hills, Dr. Lily Van Vlack Bruckner remembers always being outdoors and going Jeeping with her family. Her love for the outdoors was carried over into her own family. You will often find Lily, her husband, Tyler and their three children, Riley (8), Ethan (6 ½) and Haleigh (4), at Hart Ranch in the summer.

After graduating from Stevens High School in 2003, she went on to attend Black Hills State University. The time she spent as the Student Association President is what fueled a desire to pursue a career in Student Affairs. In 2007, with her Elementary Education degree in hand, she immediately went to work on her master’s degree. Three years later, Lily received her master’s in Counseling & Human Resource Development with an emphasis in Student Affairs Administration from South Dakota State University.

Not wasting any time, she went to work on her doctoral degree from the University of South Dakota in Educational Administration with an emphasis on Adult and Higher Education, graduating in 2014. Lily is also very involved in the Westminster MOPS group in

Rapid City; she coordinated the group for two years and is on the Steering Team this year.


Where have you worked?

As the Student Conduct Coordinator at the SD School of Mines and Technology, I helped students embrace learning opportunities and reflect on their decisions. I’ve also taught a master’s course in Leadership at NAU. Having a specialty in administration and leadership will be very beneficial in moving forward with the Children’s Museum of the Black Hills.

Where did you get the idea of opening a children’s museum?

When my husband Tyler and I visited the Denver Children’s Museum, we realized we wanted to have a children’s museum in Rapid City so our children would always have a place to go and embrace their inquiry-based minds. After discussions with close friends who agreed, and a few years of tossing the idea around, we decided to give it a shot. The idea has quickly gained momentum.

What is a children’s museum?

Children’s museums are places where children learn through play and exploration in environments designed just for them. It’s a museum that provides exhibits and programs that stimulate curiosity and motivate learning. Children’s museums provide unique, face-to-face fun, enlightenment and shared experiences not found in traditional museums.

Why does the Black Hills need one?

Many children’s museums are located in major travel and tourism destinations around the country, and the Black Hills certainly fits that. As well, we feel there is a need to provide more enriching, educational experiences for the children in our community. As a mom, I understand the need to get out of the house and do something with my kids, particularly in a place where I know they will be entertained and not get into trouble.

What is the Museum’s Founding 50?

The Founding 50 are 50 individuals, businesses and foundations in and around the Rapid City community who have helped us raise $50,000. These investments will be used to fund a consultant who specializes in emerging museum planning and feasibility studies, exhibit development, marketing, capital campaign development and most importantly, community outreach.

How can people support the Children’s Museum’s progress?

The Founding 50 was solidified in just less than four weeks, which I think demonstrates the community’s support for this project. We hope that support continues as we move into our “Buy A Bubble Help Us Grow!” fundraising campaign. If someone is interested in making a donation, they can get details at

What do your kids think about the museum?

The kids ask me daily if we can go to the children’s museum. They are having a hard time understanding that it will be awhile before we actually open. They are incredibly excited about the possibility of having one in Rapid City and are definitely enjoying the research process of exploring other children’s museums.


How do you manage to keep everything balanced?

I keep to a schedule as best I can to balance working, family time, volunteering, etc. When I get too caught up in a project, my husband is there to remind me to get back on track. I’m also careful about over-committing.

What’s your number one rule for your children?

Be kind, respectful and love one another.

What good habit do you hope to pass on to your children?

Tyler and I are both very dedicated, hard-working individuals. We hope to instill in our children the importance of hard work and caring for others during the process.

What’s the best part about being a mom?

Watching my children grow and develop into individuals.

What is the hardest part about being a mom and your advice to others?

For me, it’s disciplining the kids and finding something that works for each kid. My advice to other parents is to not worry about what everyone else does…do what works for you and your family.

What’s a valuable lesson your children have taught you?

Take the time to explore new things.

What’s your most memorable mom moment so far?

I gave birth to my daughter at home in the bathtub (not on purpose)…it’s hard to top that one.

Where do you go for fun?

We love Hart Ranch, Memorial Park and Who’s Toy House. With my husband, we enjoy date nights at Murphy’s Pub & Grill, Independent Ale House and attending Rush Hockey games.

What’s one word you would use to describe being a mom?

Rewarding. Even though the days can be long and mundane, my children light up my life. I love seeing their personalities, characteristics and uniqueness.

At the end of each day, as we pray together and they tell me they love me, no matter how difficult the day may have been, I am reminded that I am blessed to be their one and only Mom.


What’s your favorite…

Book: For the Love by Jen Hatmaker Movie: The Notebook TV Show: Parenthood Restaurant: Independent Ale House Vacation destination: Disney World Ice cream: Coffee Color: Pink  Sports team: Cowboys (by default–it’s my husband’s favorite) Favorite App: Color Note First job: Babysitting Least favorite chore: Cleaning floors


Photos by Legacy