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Nelson - Leighty Filter Minder Scholarship

The Nelson - Leighty Filter Minder Scholarship is open to high school and full-time students in a Power Technology program at Hawkeye. This scholarship is awarded on the basis of achievement, career plans, and goals.

Recipients of this scholarship may receive up to $1,000. Award funds are disbursed twice a year, in the fall and spring semesters. Recipients will receive $250 for the fall semester and $750 for the spring semester if they continue to meet scholarship eligibility requirements.

Eligibility Criteria

To Apply

  • Complete and submit a Hawkeye Scholarship Application by March 1.

  • When completing the Hawkeye Scholarship Application, include in your “Personal Statement” your skills in relation to Joe Nelson’s skills.

Scholarship selection includes a personal interview with each candidate.

A brief history of Joe Nelson and Ike Leighty

Joe Nelson, 1928–1984, was born and raised in Decorah, Iowa, the second youngest of 10 children.

After high school Joe served in the Air Force during WWII for a short time. After the war, being a "hands-on, mechanically-inclined" guy, he got his A & E Aircraft Mechanics Certificate from St. Louis School of Aeronautics in St. Louis, Missouri. He worked for two major airlines, first as a mechanic and then as a flight engineer.

Joe left aviation during a long Eastern Airlines strike and worked for Purolator and United Air Cleaner Manufacturing as a sales engineer, selling oil filter and air cleaner systems to farm tractor manufacturers in the Midwest. He saw the need for an air cleaner gauge that would progressively indicate the amount of element life used and the amount remaining. He saw that elements were prematurely serviced and thrown away on a time/mileage or "looks dirty" schedule, which shorted them of reaching their maximum efficiency in dirt-holding capacity. Over a period of two years, working off and on in his basement workshop, with minimal equipment and borrowed money, Joe developed the Filter Minder air cleaner gauge, patented it, tooled it, and put it into limited production.

Joe had a "better mousetrap" but "nobody beat a path to his door". He was a budding entrepreneur, stalled for lack of marketing.

Ike Leighty, 1915–2015, was the youngest of five children, raised by a sharecropper farmer family near Macomb, in western Illinois. In 1931, at age 15, after both parents had died, Ike moved to Cedar Falls to live with his oldest brother. He graduated from Cedar Falls High school in 1934. He studied a year at ISTC (now UNI), was a traveling salesman for Burgess Battery in Northeast Iowa1935-36, and graduated from the University of Iowa in 1941 with a Business degree. After his US Navy service as a supply officer in the western Pacific in WWII, Ike returned to begin his Waterloo career in manufacturing and consulting.

In 1977, Joe Nelson teamed up with Ike Leighty, a Waterloo businessman with 30 years of successful experience in new product development, sales, and marketing to automotive, farm, and construction equipment original equipment manufacturers. They incorporated Joe’s entrepreneurship as Engineered Products Company to develop and market the Filter Minder. Their first year ended with a company net worth of negative $64, but soon sales to major trucking fleets generated enough cash flow to grow Engineered Products without borrowing.

By 1995, the Filter Minder had become the standard in the heavy and medium truck industries, and in construction equipment, for determining air cleaner service intervals. The world’s largest truck rental fleet has used the Filter Minder since 1980, and has reduced air cleaner costs and labor by 80%—a 15 to 1 payback. Ford, Chrysler, and GM introduced the Filter Minder into the huge Detroit automotive market, especially on light trucks and vans. Filter Minder has completely revolutionized the way air cleaners are serviced: from a time, mileage or "looks dirty" basis to actual capacity used. In addition to cost-savings, society will have fewer partially used elements being thrown into already overburdened landfills.

Unfortunately, Joe died in 1984. Two years later, his widow, Fran, sold her interest in the business to Ike and moved to California to be with her family. Ike continued to grow Engineered Products in a new building near the Waterloo airport, and then sold the Company to the management team and employees for several million dollars. The company has continued to develop new products and markets. Engineered Products is a classic example of a capitalistic, wealth creating, American entrepreneurial success that gives back to the community.

The Nelson - Leighty Filter Minder Scholarship Fund was established by Joe's wife, Fran Nelson, and Ike Leighty. The scholarship’s goal is to encourage and help other potential dreamers, thinkers, "hands-on" people like Joe Nelson, to pursue their training and education in the Power Technology field at Hawkeye Community College.

The community and economy need more people like Joe Nelson who can innovate, and Ike Leighty who can sell a product’s benefits and make things happen. That is why this scholarship has been established.

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