2016 Outstanding Alumni Award

Sharon Napier MS

Sharon Napier MS 2004
College of Applied Science and Technology

Sharon Napier, founder and CEO of Partners + Napier creative ideas agency and a 2004 graduate in service leadership and innovation, is RIT’s Outstanding Alumna of the Year for 2016. The award is the highest honor the university can bestow upon an alumnus or alumna.

Napier said that when she chose to pursue graduate studies at RIT in 2002, she had two things in mind: the evolution of her career and the prospect of someday returning to teach at the collegiate level.

Following her graduation from RIT, Napier, who was president and CEO of Wolf Group from 1996 to 2004, went on to buy out local offices and form Partners + Napier. As founder and CEO of the agency, she has drawn in a multitude of big names, serving clients such as Constellation Brands, Capital One, BMW Financial Services, Delta Private Jets, ConAgra Foods and Keurig Green Mountain.

“In going to RIT, I chose to step way outside of my comfort zone,” Napier said. “I hadn’t been in a classroom in over 20 years, but in order to grow, you have to push yourself —be uncomfortable—be brave enough to step outside your comfort zone.”


Since attending RIT, Napier has lent herself back to the university as a resource, notably working as a career mentor and speaker, supporting various RIT creative projects and helping RIT’s School of International Hospitality and Service Innovation with internal branding initiatives.


She has donated to many RIT programs, including new media design, Saunders College of Business and the School of Design Alumni Scholarship. Some of the funding from her gifts has gone toward improvements in the new media design labs, incorporating state-of-the-art equipment that enables new media design students to be at the forefront of the field.


In addition, her work has been recognized both nationally and internationally in Ad Age, Adweek, Campaign US, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company and Forbes.


“I am extremely honored to be receiving the award. It is one of the highlights of my personal and professional career,” Napier said. “As a member of this community, I could not be prouder. I feel so fortunate that RIT is in and a part of Rochester, it gives us all access to something great.”