The origins of the Rodman Scholars Program can be traced back to the abolishment of the original Honors Program in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. The Honors Program was established in 1962 and consisted of an independent studies program which could be entered during a student's third or fourth year at the University. However, it quickly fell under many criticisms. It was a costly program and put an extra strain on faculty members who worked with the Honors Student. Additionally, by 1972, only fifteen diplomas with honors had been awarded in the history of the program. After a period of debate about its continued existence, the Honors Program was abolished at a faculty meeting on September 21, 1976.
A committee was soon established to consider and make recommendations for a new Special Scholars Program. Dr. Mattauch of the Department of Engineering chaired the committee, which turned in its report to Dean Gibson on May 4, 1977. It consisted of an outline for a proposed program and a description of its benefits.
This new proposal differed drastically from the original Honors Program. It affected a student's first two academic years and did not include an independent study. Rather than just being an option for a student once he was already a student at the University, the new program would be a way of attracting students to the University. It also included special courses reserved solely for those students in the program, along with a recommendation to house the students in the same dorms with the Echols Scholars, the honors program of the College of Arts and Sciences.
On October 25, 1978, the proposal was unamiously passed by the faculty. The program was to be called the Rodman Scholars Program, after Professor W. Sheldon Rodman, who had served as an outstanding professor in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In the fall of 1979, the first class of Rodman Scholars entered the University.
The early days of the Rodman Scholars Program were much different from those of today. The program has undergone a large number of revisions, many in the mid 1980s after a Rodman Scholar named Paulette Brush did a thesis paper on how to improve the Rodman Scholars Program. For example, when the program first began, it had a Rodman Council, as does the program of today. The council consisted of two student representatives from each class. Today, the Rodman Council positions are all open to Scholars of any class, and meetings are open to any interested students. Additionally, the program has increased its commitment to a strong sense of Rodman community, rather than a solely academic focus. Over time, the Rodman Scholars Program has evolved from its humble beginnings into a strong program dedicated to the development of engineering leaders.