Mayor Thiltgen funds new scholarship for Central DeWitt seniors

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

Thiltgen was born and raised in Dubuque and aspired to become a teacher. As the Vietnam War escalated, Thiltgen knew he would be required to sign up for the draft and likely spend time overseas. Foreseeing this he gave up his path to college influenced the young Thiltgen to study welding and machinery in high school. 

The mayor 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 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 the mayor of DeWitt in January 2000. 

“Throughout my life, I’ve had many ups and downs. My experiences inspired me to provide a student with the opportunity to build their own future,” said Thiltgen. “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 trade career.”

Thiltgen made an IRA rollover contribution to his endowment for the new scholarship. Using this charitable instrument, donors aged 70 ½ 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 LincolnWay Community Foundation Executive Director Pat Henricksen at 563.659.5039 or via email at

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