Sonoma State University Academic advisor Hollie Pruden, who was killed in a violent car accident on Bennett Valley Road in May, is now being remembered by community members and peers as a hard-working advisor who had a passion for helping undeclared students find their path in school.
Pruden was killed the morning of May 25 after her Toyota Yaris was struck by a Mercedes sedan on Bennett Valley Road near the Santa Rosa boarder. Reportedly her Yaris slid sideways, careening on the slippery, wet road directly into the oncoming sedan.
While the driver of the Mercedes was taken to the hospital with only mild injuries, Pruden died at the scene and is now being remembered by her colleagues as a patient and passionate student mentor.
Pruden had started her position at the university as an academic advisor in February of 2018 and had made the move across country from the east coast to settle into her career.
“Her start date was Feb. 7. She had just moved here from Florida with her husband,” said Paul Gullixson, associate vice president for strategic communications at Sonoma State. “We were afraid it was her and when we heard it was a car with Florida plates our hearts sank.”
The 37-year-old had an extensive background in academic affairs, counseling and education leadership and had numerous degrees.
She held a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Sarasota, a master’s degree in academic advising and master’s in education leadership.
“She was a coordinator of academic affairs at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. She had done academic advising for two years. She was a grad-school graduate from Kansas State University in 2015 with her M.A. in academic advising, she also got her master’s in education leadership from Argosy University in Florida,” Gullixson said.
In a Jan. 30 Sonoma State Student Affairs announcement post, Senior Director of Student Academic Services, Jami Zamjahn wrote of Pruden, “Hollie comes to Sonoma State with great experience as an academic and career advisor at multiple institutions… She takes great pride in the partnerships she forms with students..”
Zamjahn also said that Pruden was excited about making Santa Rosa and Sonoma State her new home.
When asked if she was well-liked by students and the Seawolf community, Gullixson said he hasn’t spoken to many students about her but that she was well-liked and respected among her colleagues in the academic advising department.
“I know she was highly respected among her peers for her energy and creativity… She helped students find their passion and their path — she was particularly gifted at that,” Gullixson said.
Sonoma State University President, Judy K. Sakaki issued a statement May 25, saying Seawolves’ hearts were heavy upon learning about the fatal accident. Sakaki also echoed Gullixson’s comments, saying that Pruden was highly valued by her colleagues.
“Our hearts are breaking at the tragic passing of Hollie Pruden… a beloved member of our Seawolf family. Although Hollie was a relatively new member of our campus community, she was a highly valued colleague and mentor to our students. She was energetic, creative and dedicated to helping our undeclared students find their passion and offering them the guidance they needed,” Sakaki said.
In her spare time, Pruden enjoyed spending time with her husband, baking, experimenting with photography and exploring the outdoors. She was also an avid movie and music fan, according to the student affairs announcement post.
Sakaki also mentioned the University would be offering counselling to anyone who may need it following the tragedy.
Gullixson said the University is planning a memorial to celebrate Pruden, however, the details are still being worked out.
“We are extending our deepest and most sincere condolences to Hollie’s family,” Sakaki said. “She was much too young with so much potential for us to lose her.”