Two Rochester Institute of Technology alumni will be honored Oct. 14 during the university's Brick City Homecoming & Family Weekend.
Sharon Napier, founder and CEO of Partners + Napier 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.
Michael Krupnicki, president of Mahany Welding Supply in Rochester and founder of the partner company Rochester Arc + Flame Center, will be honored as RIT's Volunteer of the Year for 2016. Krupnicki graduated from RIT in 1999 with an MBA.
They will receive the awards during the Presidents' Alumni Ball, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 14 in the Gordon Field House and Activities Center on the RIT campus.
Napier said that when she chose to pursue graduate studies at RIT in 2002, she saw an opportunity to build a nationally recognized integrated advertising agency in Rochester. She knew taking the next step toward that vision would require something more.
Following her graduation from RIT, Napier, who was the president and CEO of Wolf Group from 1996 to 2004, went on to buy out management and form Partners + Napier. With Napier as lead founder and CEO, the agency 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 take the next step to achieve the vision I had for myself and my career," 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, she has been recognized nationally and internationally, including as one of Advertising Age's Top 100 Women in Advertising, as well as featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and other industry publications as a key business leader and influencer.
"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."
Krupnicki has given back to RIT in many ways, offering classes not available on campus to RIT students. Sculpture, mechanical engineering technology and industrial design students have learned how to weld at his facilities. He estimates nearly 1,000 RIT students have taken credit-bearing classes at his businesses since 2004.
When Krupnicki heard that the all-female racing team at RIT needed some skills in welding last year, he was quick to step in. Not only did he teach the Hot Wheelz team how to weld by offering them free classes, but he provided the space for them to build the car's frame.
"This is how I give back as an alumnus," said Krupnicki. "I get satisfaction knowing that my organizations have contributed to students' education at RIT."
In addition, Krupnicki has sponsored the annual Glass Pumpkin Sale and RIT Formula Racing and RIT Baja Racing teams. He has hosted team-building activities for Saunders College of Business students at Arc + Flame, volunteered as a judge in campus business competitions and worked as an adjunct professor in Saunders College of Business from 1997 to 2012. He also hires RIT alumni to work in his businesses.
"Who would have thought a welding supply business could have an impact on so many college students," he said. "Maybe this will inspire other local alumni with businesses to find creative ways to give back."