‘She was really authentic’: co-workers remember Sonja Crain


Stephanie Neve

Left to Right: Marzia Corni-Benson, Stephanie Neve and Sonja Crain attended the EOA Conference in 2019. This was the last conference they all went to together as a group.

by Katie Burns, ID Magazine Layout Editor

Simpson faculty, students and community grieve the loss of former Visiting Instructor of Psychology and TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) Advisor, Sonja Crain.

As a TRIO Advisor, Crain helped to provide support to first-generation, low-income and disabled students.

On Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, with her family by her side at home, Crain passed away after a long battle with cancer. 

Director of TRIO Student Support Services, Stephanie Neve, and Director of Foundations and Government Support Systems, Martiza Corni-Benson had a strong relationship with Crain through Simpson.

Both Neve and Corni-Benson stayed in contact with Crain after she left Simpson in 2020 while battling cancer. Once the news came about, Corni-Benson said that it was physically harder than emotionally not seeing her around.

“A few of us knew it was coming, and we were pretty up to speed about her illness. Even though we were expecting it, it was a relief for her because we knew that she was in a lot of pain, especially at the end,”  Corni-Benson said. “But it was that sort of takes your breath away and stuck in a knot kind of feeling, it was more physical than being able to process the emotions.”

Neve explained that one of her favorite things about Crain was how authentic she was, not only as a co-worker but as a person as well.

“She was really authentic, and I felt like you always got this very real version of who she was. And that was pretty incredible. She was serious and professional at work, but she also had this goofy side of her that was just fun, she had a great sense of humor,” Neve said.

When it comes to the memories, both Neve and Benson had so many stories to pick from, it was hard to choose. But, each of them said their favorite memory they did as a group was during the rise of the pandemic, they would go to Crain’s house and have a “driveway wine party.”

“Right after work, we would go to her house and sit outside in her driveway with three folding chairs, no disposable containers so we didn’t cross-contaminate, a cooler with a tablecloth on it, snacks, and wine. It was a great time to catch up with one another once she retired from Simpson,” Corni-Benson and Neve said.

One memory that Neve shared was going to conferences with Crain and always being goofy in their hotel room when they got placed in a fancy room.

“We traveled to various conferences together and at one conference, we shared a room together with a patio overlooking the lake and would always tease each other like we were on a romantic getaway trip. It was a really good time,” she said.

Corni-Benson’s favorite memory with Crain involved the outdoors and always being cold. Each of them would take long walks and admire the weather when it was a nice day out and would never miss any opportunity.

“We loved warm sunny days in the spring and fall when we could take our lunch to a bench outside Dunn, sitting in the sun. When we traveled to Chicago for a conference, I remember a long, early morning walk downtown taking in the brisk fall air and admiring the landscape before the city was fully awake,” Corni-Benson said.

The impact Crain made on campus was not only reflected on students but on her co-workers as well. Neve said that she was very organized when it came to writing notes so they could be passed down to those who were going to take her position, like Neve.

She said that Crain made an impact on herself to become a great role model for students and to be an attentive listener towards students.

“I think every student who worked with her knew that they were getting her full attention and that she was invested in their success. As a co-worker, I think I felt that way as well, and I learned a lot from her as a colleague about how I wanted to be able to approach my work as she did,” Neve said.

The impact that Crain had on the students she advised, her co-workers and her Simpson College family won’t be forgotten.