Don Charleston is the epitome of a Moraine Park success story. He came to the College in 1973 looking for more career opportunities and a better life. At the time, his family was living on his wife’s $4 per hour nursing wage. After earning his degree in mechanical drafting, he went on to have a successful 34-year career in the earthmoving industry. His career and success took him around the world, but he has never forgotten where he came from and that is evident through his generous donations of time, talent, and treasures.
It is because of his endless generosity and Moraine Park pride that Moraine Park Technical College has recognized Charleston as its 2018 Distinguished Alumnus award winner. He was presented with the honor during the College’s annual Student Awards Banquet on May 11.
“I owe my career success to three great Moraine Park instructors, Larry Lamont, Ralph Drumwright, and Keith Drazkowski,” Charleston said. “I had my 1974 Moraine Park yearbook in my work desk drawer for 34 years so I would remember the people and experiences that changed my life.”
Charleston graduated from Moraine Park in 1974 with a degree in mechanical drafting, his career began 11 days after graduation. He relocated his family to Peoria, Illinois, which at that time was considered the earthmoving capitol of the world. Charleston worked for WABCO for a few years and then accepted a position at Caterpillar.
“I accepted the position with a salary cut,” Charleston said. ”It was scary but it ended up being one of the best career decisions of my life.”
He spent the next 30 years with Caterpillar, where he was quickly promoted and excelled within this fortune 500 company.
“I traveled all over the United States and internationally to places like Russia and China,” Charleston said. “I never stopped challenging myself to learn new trades and experience new things and Moraine Park played a large part in that mindset.”
He retired from Caterpillar on April 1, 2008, after 30 years of service. In his retirement, Charleston hasn’t forgotten about his alma mater and all of the places he has been as a result of his education. He returned to Moraine Park in May of 2016 to establish a scholarship through the Moraine Park Foundation.
“It was one of the proudest moments in my life,” Charleston said. “I am also grateful to the Caterpillar Foundation Matching Gifts Program for supplying additional money to the Moraine Park Foundation on my behalf.”
Today, Charleston and his wife have established two scholarships through the Moraine Park Foundation and you can often find him attending alumni gatherings and scholarship recipient luncheons. He also makes it a point to personally reach out to each recipient with encouraging letters.
“I feel extremely fortunate to be one of Moraine Park’s many successful alumni,” Charleston said. “And, there is no greater feeling than helping students in need.”
For more information on Moraine Park’s Alumni Association, visit morainepark.edu/alumni.