Young Dave Thillen performs gymnastics
Young Dave stands in front of a trailer

Dave was convinced that an advanced degree would help him better compete for a starting position to begin his career.  So, he attended Northern Illinois University and obtained a Master’s Degree in Mathematics.  He began his career by joining IBM in the Chicago area in software development. 

After six months, IBM gave Dave military leave to fulfill his military obligation.  Dave was stationed at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York as a physical education instructor and assistant gymnastics coach. Upon completing his 2 years of military service, Dave returned to IBM in software development but located in Jacksonville, Florida. 

 

Upon being exposed to the world of marketing, Dave altered his career path to marketing and entered marketing management after being promoted to Atlanta, Georgia.  He then went between line and staff management and retired after 30 years as a Business Unit Executive. 

Dave understood that education was the way out of poverty, and he committed his life to helping others understand the transformative power of great coaching, life and career plans, milestone goals, and hard work.

Dave Thillen in his high school cap and gown
Dave Thillen at his college graduation with his friends

As a young man, Dave Thillen knew the hardships of being poor. Growing up as the youngest child of five and never knowing his father, Dave was raised by a hardworking mom in the inner-city of Chicago. Mom having just an 8th grade education made it challenging to provide for her young family. Dave was the only child in the family to graduate from high school. 

 

Life wasn’t always easy. Even so, the lessons Dave learned in his early years about perseverance, courage, and dreams became the bedrock for a very bright future.

Propelled by a desire to better his circumstances, Dave dedicated himself to his schoolwork, made professional connections, met with mentors, and eventually attended Wheaton College. There, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and was co-captain of the gymnastics team. 

 

Dave was convinced that an advanced degree would help him better compete for a starting position to begin his career.  So, he attended Northern Illinois University and obtained a Master’s Degree in Mathematics.  He began his career by joining IBM in the Chicago area in software development. 

After six months, IBM gave Dave military leave to fulfill his military obligation.  Dave was stationed at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York as a physical education instructor and assistant gymnastics coach. Upon completing his 2 years of military service, Dave returned to IBM in software development but located in Jacksonville, Florida. 

 

Upon being exposed to the world of marketing, Dave altered his career path to marketing and entered marketing management after being promoted to Atlanta, Georgia.  He then went between line and staff management and retired after 30 years as a Business Unit Executive. 

Dave understood that education was the way out of poverty, and he committed his life to helping others understand the transformative power of great coaching, life and career plans, milestone goals, and hard work.

Growing Up Poor, Rising through Education

As a young man, Dave Thillen knew the hardships of being poor. Growing up as the youngest child of five and never knowing his father, Dave was raised by a hardworking mom in the inner-city of Chicago. Mom having just an 8th grade education made it challenging to provide for her young family. Dave was the only child in the family to graduate from high school. 

 

Life wasn’t always easy. Even so, the lessons Dave learned in his early years about perseverance, courage, and dreams became the bedrock for a very bright future.

Propelled by a desire to better his circumstances, Dave dedicated himself to his schoolwork, made professional connections, met with mentors, and eventually attended Wheaton College. There, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and was co-captain of the gymnastics team.

Thillen Education Foundation Timeline

First GCCA graduating class.

2022

Post COVID-19 growth

2021

Establishing a Foundation of Financial Assistance

2020

Volunteer Coaches are trained in Dave’s Education Planning Process

2018

Greene College & Career Academy is formed. CEO, John Ellenberg, and Dave form partnership.

2017

GCHS Principal & teachers support Dave’s planning process

2016

92% of H4H high school students graduate, 81% continue to college, technical college or the military.

2014

One on One Success: The first college graduate from a Habitat Home.

2012

First Greene County High School graduate from a Habitat home

2005

Creating individual plans for the students in a Habitat Home.

2003

Computer & age appropriate software in every new home.

2002

Families need more than a house. Dave and Elaine organize the community to furnish the new home. The Habitat Restore is opened in Greensboro, GA.

2001

Dave Thillen retires from IBM, volunteers to build homes for Habitat for humanity.

1999

Our Foundation Timeline

Today the Thillen Education Foundation is engaged in an innovative and collaborative effort to prepare young people to find success in a rapidly changing world.  The coming year will see Greene College & Career Academy students, from freshman to senior classes, on board and participating within a mentored career planning process. All students—not just the top 2 or 3, or top 10%—will have the opportunity to graduate with a career goal in view, a plan to reach it in place, and the ability to earn financial assistance to get started. This process has been over 20 years in the making. 

Habitat family on porch
The first kid's bedroom in a Habitat home
An early 2000s PC
Habitat student education plan
Marie Carroll's graduation with her family and Dave Thillen
Dave presents a check to a high school student
A GCHS student is welding
A student shows off her Dave Dollars

Foundation History

Chuck Rowland poses with a student
Dave Thillen poses with a family at graduation

Join Our Impact

Experience the rewards of playing a role in sending a hard-working teen to college, advancing their professional skills, and ensuring a guided, financially-assisted path to their future. 

Become a Partner

Activate your corporate mission by partnering with us to advance student opportunity through earned financial assistance and respectful diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Two students in front of a class of 2024 poster
Two students with a Dave Dollar

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Nothing is more exciting than seeing our kids engaging with our volunteer life coaches. Join us for our next in-person event! 

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Education creates opportunity.

Career plans provide structure.

Coaching delivers inspiration.

Hard work guarantees success.

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© 2021 Thillen Education Foundation.

The Thillen Education Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization registered in the state of Georgia.

Registered Non-Profit Tax ID: #85-0600929

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