don and annDon, ’69 and Ann, ’67, MS ’81, Charleston believe in the fundamental right to education. “We pledge to NIU because no one should ever be denied an education due to a lack of money,” Don says.   

The Charlestons met at Northern Illinois University in 1965. Don, a chemistry major, and Ann, a nursing student, connected at the library on a study date with a mutual friend. After graduation, Ann entered the field of public health and Don worked as a chemist for an electronics company. 

Ann’s 31-year nursing career spanned a variety of hospital (US Navy), psychiatric, public health, and teaching institutions. She taught both classroom and clinical courses at Bradley University and Illinois Wesleyan University. 

Don spent 34 years with Caterpillar, Inc., and WABCO in engineering design. His diesel engine design skills gave him the opportunity to work on projects throughout the United States, Mexico, Russia, and China. 

The couple has lived outside Peoria, Ill., since 1974 where Don finished his career at Caterpillar as a diesel engine project engineer. Their successful careers have allowed them to be philanthropic to their alma mater now and through their estate. Don credits their NIU education for providing them the professional opportunities that make philanthropy to NIU possible. 

The Charlestons support the university now through annual gifts and are committing a portion of their estate to both the chemistry and nursing programs. In 2016, they established the Don and Ann Charleston Scholarship to the NIU School of Nursing, and they also contribute annually to the Chemistry Alumni Undergraduate Scholarship. Their donations are funded directly from the required minimum distribution (RMD) of a traditional IRA, making their donation dollars tax-exempt. 

“We both had professional careers,” he says. “I’ve traveled all over the world. We do not have children to put through college, but we decided to put college in reach for others.”