LincolnWay Community Foundation honors former coach with charitable fund

Pat Henricksen
Executive Director

For immediate release

In 1967, there were no girls athletics at Central DeWitt High School. Enter Pam Duncan, then a recent graduate of the University of Iowa, who joined the faculty and began a career focused on making a difference in the lives of young women for the next 30 years.

“When I came to DeWitt I couldn’t believe that there were no athletics for girls — none at all. The girls were in the bleachers watching the guys,” the now-retired physical education teacher recalled. “There were lots of talented kids who were athletically inclined and loved competition, yet they had no way to express that.”

Because of Pam, Central girls today have many opportunities to play competitive sports. Her legacy grows both through the girls’ athletic achievements as well as a new endowment fund established in her honor. The Pam Duncan Endowment for Women’s Sports at Central DeWitt High School was recently established with the LincolnWay Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, and will support equality in school athletics at Central forever.

As a physical education teacher, Pam shared her own love for basketball. Her father, a school board member, helped bring girls basketball to Columbus Junction upon consolidation with Cotter. “I had played basketball competitively in school since the sixth grade, and that was the highlight of my high school career,” she said. “I shared my story during our basketball unit in P.E., and the girls came up to me and said they’d like to play, too.”

Dressed in navy t-shirts with numbers taped to their backs, Central’s first girls basketball players played against Pleasant Valley High School of Davenport and a team made up of faculty and community members. “When we started, I was not of the attitude that we should have everything all at once. I felt that we had to earn that. I went slowly,” Pam said. “We didn’t have a lot of help, but we had kids who were very enthusiastic about the program. There was resistance with an older school of thought, and I respected that because it was of a different era. At the same time, I tried to work around it.”

Over the next several years, Pam eased the school into girls athletics — driven entirely by her students’ desire for competitive sports. The girls took a signed petition to the school board in 1970, which encouraged the board to approve girls track and softball.

When Dwight Spangler came on board as athletic director at Central in 1977, he served the boys and girls athletes and teams equally. That was not always the case, at that time, in neighboring schools. “It was great working and teaching with him,” said Pam. Howard Erhler, principal, was also supportive.

In 1973, Pam coached girls volleyball, basketball and track. “I only did that once,” she said with a laugh. She continued to coach volleyball for 25 years and basketball for 30, retiring from both coaching and teaching in 1999. While teaching, she served on the state volleyball advisory board and was an active member of the professional group for physical education teachers.

Reflecting on the decades of students she coached, Pam considers teamwork to be one of the most valuable lessons athletics can teach. She notes that athletes benefit by building work ethic, self-discipline, and good sportsmanship.

“I gained so much that I’m thankful for from coaching. It was fun to see these young people who worked so hard and were able to contribute so much come back and tell me what they've accomplished in the next phase of life,” said Pam. 

To make a contribution to the Pam Duncan Endowment for Women’s Sports at Central DeWitt High School, click here. Or, contact Pat Henricksen, executive director of the LincolnWay Community Foundation, at 563.659.5039 or

# # #

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 nonprofits, churches, schools and individuals with charitable intent in Calamus, Charlotte, Delmar, DeWitt, Goose Lake, Grand Mound, Lost Nation, Low Moor, Welton and Wheatland. To learn more, visit

# # #

The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque strengthens communities and inspires giving. For more information, call 563.588.2700 or visit

Press Contact

Jeff Danna
Communications Manager

About Us
Founded in 2002, the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque strengthens communities and inspires giving. We are dedicated to improving the quality of life throughout Northeast Iowa by serving donors, making grants to local nonprofit organizations, and providing community leadership through convening and collaboration. Guided by the values of integrity, equity and inclusion, collaboration, excellence and innovation, we seek to ensure a vibrant and inclusive Greater Dubuque region with resources and opportunity for all.