Mayor Don Thiltgen

Mayor Don Thiltgen participates in a joint meeting Wednesday between the DeWitt City Council and the Central DeWitt Community School Board. Thiltgen has created a scholarship that will be awarded annually to a Central DeWitt student who plans to pursue a career in a skilled trade. Through the assistance of the LincolnWay Foundation, Thiltgen set up an endowment that will forever fund the scholarship.

Don Thiltgen, mayor of DeWitt, has created a new scholarship at Central DeWitt High School through his endowment fund with the LincolnWay Community Foundation.

The new scholarship will be awarded annually to a student planning to study a skilled trade or pursue a two-year degree.

This scholarship complements an athletic scholarship also supported by the mayor.

Thiltgen, who was born and raised in Dubuque, aspired to become a teacher. However, as the Vietnam War escalated, Thiltgen knew he would be required to sign up for the draft and likely spend time overseas. Knowing that would likely interrupt his path to college, Thiltgen decided to study welding and machinery in high school.

The mayor eventually decided to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. After four years of enlistment, he returned to Dubuque and was hired at John Deere. Thiltgen began his career there as a press helper, rising in the ranks to foundry worker, machinist, setup man and, eventually, supervisor. With two decades of experience, he was promoted to programmer for computer numerical control — or CNC — machines.

After 32 years at John Deere, Thiltgen retired and became mayor of DeWitt in January 2000.

“Throughout my life, I’ve had many ups and downs,” Thiltgen related. “My experiences inspired me to provide a student with the opportunity to build their own future. As in my story, college is not always the path one can follow. That’s why I’m offering this scholarship to an ambitious student who wishes to pursue a skilled career.”

Thiltgen made an IRA rollover contribution to his endowment for the new scholarship. Using this charitable instrument, donors ages 70½ and older can transfer up to $100,000 per year from individual retirement accounts (IRAs) to charity — without incurring federal income taxes today or estate and income taxes in the future.

Thanks to the LincolnWay Community Foundation’s affiliation with the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, gifts of $50 or more to endowments may also be eligible for the Endow Iowa 25% State Tax Credit.

To impact a cause you care about, contact the LincolnWay Community Foundation Executive Director Pat Henricksen at (563) 659-5039, or via email at

An affiliate of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, the LincolnWay Community Foundation assists in charitable projects and programs that contribute to the quality of life in rural Clinton County, Iowa.

The foundation provides grants, scholarships, tax benefits and administrative services to organizations, churches, schools and individuals with charitable intent in Calamus, Charlotte, Delmar, DeWitt, Goose Lake, Grand Mound, Lost Nation, Low Moore, Welton and Wheatland.

To learn more, visit