Howard D. Colman

Howard D. Colman Scholarship

Supporting students from Boone and Winnebago County who are pursuing a degree in engineering, computer science, applied science, or a comparable technology field. 

Fall Scholarship - Open Open This scholarship is part of the Fall application cycle. The application is open November 1st to January 1st every year. How to Apply

Eligibility Criteria

Applicants must:

- Be a graduating high school senior.
- Currently reside in Boone or Winnebago County.
- Intend to major in engineering, computer science, applied science, or a comparable technology field.
- Personify the innovative spirit of Howard D. Colman.


The Howard D. Colman Scholarship is a piece of the larger Howard D. Colman Scholarship Program and has a separate application and timeline from other CFNIL Scholarships. The application opens November 1 and closes January 1 each year. Finalists will be required to interview with members of the selection committee.

The first year award is $2,500. Each year, one of four recipients from the prior year will be selected as the Howard D. Colman Scholar and have their award increased to $10,000 and renewed for up to three additional years, as long as criteria are met. Total award over four years could be as much as $32,500. Recipients must be willing to accept full-time summer internship offers through CFNIL and make a good faith effort to return to the Rockford area after graduation. Please visit the Howard D. Colman Scholarship Program page to learn more.

Written Prompt

Each CFNIL scholarship is created with a specific purpose in mind. As you complete the application, the system automatically matches you with every scholarship for which you are eligible and will present you with a specific written prompt for each. You're encouraged to craft a unique response to each prompt to show the reviewers why you're the best candidate for that scholarship.

Scholarship Background and Intent

1873 – 1942

Howard D. Colman’s career as an inventor and entrepreneur spanned more than half a century of American life. He grew up, in the 1880s, when there was still a strong handicraft tradition in this country and artisans did mechanical job-work as a way of making ends meet; and he died, during the Second World War, when the United States had become the largest urban industrial nation on earth, with an armaments program incorporating the advance technologies of mass production and a highly-organized research community involved in the exploration of the new sciences of digital computing, jet propulsion, and applied atomic physics.

Colman was one of the most gifted American inventors of the 20th Century, though little recognized in his lifetime and all but forgotten since his death. A scientific prodigy who made his own earliest hand tools and taught himself the fundamentals of mechanics and physics, he solved the last great puzzle of textile automation as a young man and eventually launched a machine-building business that dominated the international market. He was a person of amazing conceptual abilities and uncanny insights into the dynamics of force and motion. His experiments in the fields of small motors, temperature controls, textiles, machine tools, and telecommunications earned him 149 U.S. patents and a substantial personal fortune, but practically no other type of popular recognition because of his aversion to publicity.

Unlike Edison who actively promoted himself and his inventions, Colman went to great lengths to avoid attention, refusing to allow his photograph to appear in newspapers, arranging his workday so that it limited the possibilities of outside interruption, and even building a one-room “penthouse” on the roof of his factory to allow him to be close to his work.

This scholarship, honoring Howard D. Colman, was established by Ruth Colman Tower, Howard Colman’s oldest daughter. In 1987, Mrs. Tower named the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois the beneficiary of a charitable remainder trust. It was her desire that, upon her death, this trust would endow the Howard D. Colman Memorial Scholarship.

Biographic information about Howard Colman available in Master Inventor – How Howard Colman Created a Multi-National Corporation, written by Jon Lundin, copyright 2006. Master Inventor is available for purchase at the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois. $10 from each copy sold benefits the Howard D. Colman Memorial Fund of the Community Foundation’s Community Needs Fund.

The Howard D. Colman Scholarship honors this entrepreneur and inventor who lived and worked in Rockford in the early 20th century. The fund was established in his memory by his daughter, Ruth Colman Tower, and is awarded to students with plans to study manufacturing or engineering. Students who receive the Colman Scholarship are also connected with a Rockford-area manufacturing or engineering firm for a hands-on, paid internship. Each year, one of these scholarship winners who has completed the internship is awarded the additional distinction of Colman Scholar, which provides an additional scholarship and the opportunity to continue their internship.