Sandra Caron, a professor of family relations and human sexuality at the University of Maine, was recently named the 2019 Distinguished Maine Professor.
The distinguished professor award is given annually by the University of Maine Alumni Association to celebrate “those professors who exemplify the highest qualities of teaching, research, and public service — in that order,” according to the award’s Alumni Association website. Sponsored by the classes of 1942 and 2002, the award also includes a $4,200 prize.
“It’s an amazing award, it’s the University’s top faculty award,” Caron said. “For me it’s even more meaningful because it’s being given by the Alumni Association — my Alumni Association.”
Caron received her masters of science in human development from UMaine in 1982. Four years later, in 1986, she received her doctorate in the same discipline from Syracuse University in New York. In 1988, Caron joined the faculty at UMaine, where she teaches courses on human sexuality and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies.
“To think that I’m on that list with so many other people who have really made the University what it is today … you know, look at some of the former recipients in all of these different disciplines,” Caron said. “It’s the ultimate career award. For me it’s amazing.”
For more than 20 years, Caron wrote a weekly column for the Maine Campus and hosted a radio show, both called “Sex Matters,” in which she responded to students’ questions.
“Many people never took my class but knew me from that column,” Caron said. “It’s interesting because I always say it wasn’t my answers, I don’t think; it was that people were very interested in what the college students were asking.”
Writing the column, Caron said, was one of her proudest achievements during her nearly 31 years at UMaine, in addition to pioneering peer education programs, writing “Sex Lives of College Students — a book that builds on research conducted at UMaine — and winning the Presidential Teaching Award in 1998.
Caron now writes for the national website College Sex Talk where she continues to field questions from college students and host discussions.
“[Caron] not only cares so much about the content she teaches but the quality of her classes,” Dayle Welch, a fourth-year child development and family relations student, said. “She creates the most engaging class periods with fun activities and incredible guest lecturers.”
Welch, who is now a teaching assistant in one of Caron’s classes, took human sexuality with Caron as a first-year and said that four years later it is still the best class she has taken at UMaine.
“She clearly puts her all into every class, and leaves us feeling like she really cares about what we are getting out of the university,” Welch said.
Last year’s winner of the Distinguished Maine Professor award was Frank Drummond, a professor of insect ecology and insect pest management in the School of Biology and Ecology at the University of Maine.