The Napier Initiative is a partnership between Pilgrim Place and the five Claremont Colleges to encourage leadership for social change. Inspiration for this particular partnership has come from the lives of two former residents of Pilgrim Place, Davie and Joy Napier, who were much admired across the United States for their prophetic leadership in working for world peace, for a just and inclusive society, and for environmental sustainability. Upon the deaths of Joy and Davie, their family, former students, and Pilgrim Place residents honored them by creating a memorial fund dedicated to the fellowships and programs of the Napier Initiative.
Students with interest and experience in working for peace, social justice, and environmental sustainability connect with residents of Pilgrim Place who have life experience and professional skills in these fields. In turn, the students invigorate the ongoing justice work of the retired residents of Pilgrim Place. Leadership for the Initiative is given by Pilgrim Place, faculty members designated by the five Claremont Colleges, and representatives from the wider Claremont community.
2011 Napier Awardee Takako Mino preparing Ugandan students for a public debate.
This intergenerational Initiative offers as its primary programs:
- The Napier Fellows: Each of the Claremont Colleges may nominate annually in the fall up to three seniors to be Napier Fellows. These are students who have proven ability to give leadership in social change and are proposing a project they would like to carry out immediately after graduation. The nominees gather at Pilgrim Place several times during the year and are invited to find a mentor from among the Pilgrim Place residents for the coming year.
- The Napier Mentors: The nominees gather at Pilgrim Place several times during the year and are invited to find a mentor from among the Pilgrim Place residents for the coming year. Mentors are retirees who have had a lifetime of experience and leadership in national and international social justice endeavors. Napier Fellows are invited to select a Pilgrim Place mentor who will provide support and encouragement for the anticipated projects. For many Napier Fellows, their senior year in college is an opportunity to discern their future vocational goals. Pilgrim Place mentors have provided a sympathetic listening ear and reflection on life experience which enhances the process for many Fellows. In some cases, mentors have been able to assist Fellows by identifying local leaders with an interest in the proposed project, like-minded individuals working on similar projects in other locations and possible financial resources. Close mutually supportive friendships have been established between mentors and Fellows.
- The Napier Awards: Each year two of the Napier Fellows will be awarded $12,000 to help them carry out their proposed projects.
- Napier Courses: The Initiative assists college professors to identify elders with particular skills or experiences to become co-learners along side students at the Claremont Colleges. Two courses will be offered in the 2015-16 school year. Each course integrates theory with practical experience focused on social justice issues.
- The Napier Medalist: At the annual awards banquet, the Napier Medal is awarded to a distinguished person who exemplifies the values of the Napier Initiative.