Students Remember Late Professor

Kind, dedicated and passionate; the words used by many to describe Sondra Solomon, who died Sept. 13 from cancer.

She was an associate professor of psychological science and clinical associate professor of psychiatry.

During her time at UVM, she directed both the undergraduate program in the department of psychological science and UVM’s Fall Institute on Racism, Heterosexism, Bias and Oppression, and chaired the Diversity Curriculum Review Committee.

In 2006, Solomon created the Person-Environment Zone Project with Carol Miller, professor of social psychology, in order to bring undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty members together in an effort to help bring awareness of stigma, healthy behaviors and discrimination in society.

Despite having her hands full, she always made time for students.

“Her office hours were always packed,” said Susan Richardson, a colleague of 10 years.

“She was always working hard, and she was a great mentor. She tried to help make every student keep that spark alive,” she said. 

Dr. Sondra Solomon is pictured in her office. Solomon died Sept. 13 of cancer. She was an associate professor of psychological science.
Dr. Sondra Solomon is pictured in her office. Solomon died Sept. 13 of cancer. She was an associate professor of psychological science. Photo courtesy of Sally McKay

A former graduate student, Cheryl Kaiser, spoke about when Solomon began her “Psychology Challenges Biased Behavior” workshop series at UVM.

“It was the first time I was asked to use my academic scholarship to make a difference in society,” Kaiser said. She believes the “initial nudge” Solomon gave her many years ago helps her “connect psychology to society, law, and policy” today.

“She was an academic who was truly and wholeheartedly invested in making a difference in the world,” she said.

While she is said to have been soft-spoken in conversation, she was vocal when it came to sharing her work and research.

Julianna Hogan, who knew Solomon for more than six years as both an undergraduate and graduate student, emphasized the passion she put into her work.

“She always had this sense that everything she was talking about, she was talking about because it was meaningful to her,” Hogan said. “She was truly invested, and it came through in everything she did, from her classes, to the multicultural summit she did.”

Besides her dedication to teaching, leadership and research, what friends, colleagues and students say they will remember most about Solomon is how she treated others.

Sally Wendt, a former graduate student of Solomon’s in the 1990s, said Solomon was “warm, bright, positive and kind.”

Others echoed her sentiments.

William McGrath, another former graduate student said, “she was a truly selfless and kind person who was always available to those who sought her out.”

Kelly Rohan, another colleague of Solomon, described her as “the loveliest person you could ever meet.”

“She was a ray of light who was a dear friend to many people,” Rohan said.  “I think everyone who met her and knew her felt fortunate to know her. She was such a caring person.”

When asked about Solomon’s lasting legacy at the University, many didn’t hesitate before responding.

“I think Sondra’s takeaway for us would be to be in the moment, to be mindful of where we are, and to be kind to one another,” Richardson said.