Published in the 2015 Homecoming program.
David J. Rathje ’58 is the recipient of the 2015 Merit-Loyalty Award for his contributions to the Decatur and Millikin communities as a business leader and philanthropist.
Rathje is founder and chairman of Rathje Enterprises Inc., d/b/a Bodine Electric of Decatur, which also includes the Kelly Group. The companies employ more than 1,400 workers. Rathje purchased the existing Bodine Electric in 1965 and has since grown the company to have divisions in electrical contracting, electrical wholesale, electro-mechanical repair, electrical service and communications in Decatur, Champaign and Danville, Ill. Under his leadership, Bodine Electric has become one of the largest full-service electrical companies in the Midwest. During the 1980s, Rathje founded The Kelly Group, a Midwest company specializing in general contracting, contract maintenance and heavy and precision metal fabrication, with offices in Decatur, Lafayette, Ind., West Memphis, Ark., and Reserve, La.
A faithful Big Blue supporter, Rathje has contributed to Millikin’s “Advancing the Vision” and “Transform MU” capital campaigns. He has established an endowed scholarship and has also made leadership-level contributions to the new University Center at Staley Library building project and several memorials. He has earned recognition on the Wall of Philanthropy for his lifetime giving.
In addition to his support of Millikin, Rathje has served faithfully throughout the Decatur community as a board member for First National Bank of Decatur, Gildorn Savings and Loan, Country Club of Decatur, United Way and the Decatur Gun Club, where he also served as president. A generous philanthropist, he has also been a contributor to many area organizations, including Allerton Park near Monticello, Ill.
After his studies in engineering administration at Millikin, Rathje completed his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he was also an active member of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity and remains a faithful U of I supporter. He is a registered engineer in the states of Illinois and Kansas and a member of the American Institute of Plant Engineers (AIPE), where he served as president of Chapter 126 in 1980. For his outstanding accomplishments, Rathje received AIPE’s Engineer of the Year Award in 1986.
Rathje and his wife, Debra, divide their time between homes in Decatur, Ft. Myers, Fla., and Sanibel, Fla. He enjoys tennis, golf, boating, fishing and hunting. An avid skeet shooter, he was “high gun” in the Decatur Skeet League, holding records in High Ten (1971-1992) and All Star (1971-1992). A member of Decatur’s First Presbyterian Church, he enjoys traveling the world and has three adult children, Roxane, David and Kelly, and six grandchildren.