Sonoma State academic adviser killed in Santa Rosa crash

Sonoma State University officials said a woman killed in a crash early Friday just outside Santa Rosa city limits was their colleague, a new academic adviser who moved to the area just this year.

Hollie Nichole Pruden, 37, was on her way to work when she lost control of her Toyota Yaris on wet pavement on Bennett Valley Road, the CHP said. Her compact car careened sideways into an oncoming sedan, causing the Yaris to flip onto its side, authorities said.

Formerly a resident of Tampa, Florida, Pruden moved to Santa Rosa at the beginning of the year and started her job ?Feb. 7, advising undergraduate students still choosing majors, SSU spokesman Paul Gullixson said.

“Although Hollie was a relatively new member of our campus community, she was a highly valued colleague and mentor to our students,” SSU President Judy Sakaki said in a statement to the campus community. “She was energetic, creative and dedicated to helping our undeclared students find their passion and offering them the guidance they needed.”

Coworkers who became aware of the 7:49 a.m. crash after Pruden failed to turn up to work were heartbroken by the loss. Sakaki said counseling support would be provided to those at the university who needed it.

Pruden moved to Sonoma County with her husband after a stint as a career coach and adviser at several Florida institutions. She earned a bachelor’s in business administration at the University of Sarasota and held two master’s degrees, including one in academic advising, according to SSU.

Although only a part of the SSU community for a short time, she worked closely with her students, Gullixson said. The spring semester is over, but he said the university is hoping to find a way to honor Pruden’s life and work on campus.

The CHP said witnesses to the deadly crash reported seeing the Yaris going about 60 mph eastbound near Carrithers Road moments before the crash. The speed limit there is 45.

Santa Rosa resident April Chapman was in a Mercedes E350 heading west on Bennett Valley Road when she saw the silver Yaris sliding toward her lane but was unable to avoid it, CHP Officer Jon Sloat said.

Her sedan struck the passenger side of the Toyota, causing it to flip onto the driver’s side, CHP said. Witnesses stopped to render aid, but Pruden died at the scene.

One of Pruden’s colleagues, fellow adviser Edie Brown, said she didn’t believe Pruden would have driven that fast, given the speed limit.

“That wasn’t in her character,” Brown said.

Chapman was taken to a Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with minor to moderate injuries, CHP said.

The collision was one of multiple crashes throughout the wet morning commute Friday. It shut down a stretch of Bennett Valley Road between Yulupa Avenue and Grange Road until at least 10:30 a.m.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

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