Board of Trustees
Columbia Southern University is governed by an 8 to 15 member Board of Trustees, which establishes the mission of the University and determines the general policies and affairs of the University. The Articles of Incorporation and the By-laws of Columbia Southern University clearly define the powers, duties, and responsibilities of the Board of Trustees.
The Board is responsible for appointing the President, establishing broad institutional goals and plans for the University, approving the earned degrees, approval of all governmental and private financial aid programs, the review and approval of the annual operation and capital expenditures budget of the University, including all major contractual relationships and other major obligations executed in the name of the University, and such other responsibilities as law, governmental directives, or custom require the Board to act upon. The Board of Trustees fulfills its responsibilities through three standing committees- The Executive Committee, the Academic and Student Affairs Committee and the Finance Committee, and through established procedures to ensure that it is adequately informed about the programs and general condition of the University.
The Board meets at least four times a year, two meetings being teleconference meetings.
Questions concerning the Board of Trustees should be directed to the Office of the President, Columbia Southern University.
Chantell Cooley, Trustee
Mrs. Cooley is corporate vice president, co-founder and part owner of Columbia Southern University. Mrs. Cooley is responsible for the supervision of the Admissions Department and the Student Services Department. Mrs. Cooley leads many important initiatives at CSU including leadership training for management, customer service training, and various self-improvement training programs for staff and faculty. She is particularly knowledgeable about educational administration and the admission/student services aspects of distance learning. Mrs. Cooley has been with CSU since its founding and, like all members of the Mayes family, is on the Board of Directors.
Michael Hillyard DPA, Trustee
Dr. Hillyard is an independent consultant specializing in higher education strategy, governance, quality assurance, curriculum, accreditation, and regulation. He has performed work on behalf of colleges and universities, accrediting bodies, and foreign governments and institutions.
Hillyard has served in a variety of higher education executive positions. He was president of the University of St. Augustine, a health sciences institution that annually produces the U.S.’s largest and third-largest classes of physical and occupational therapists, respectively, through campus operations in St. Augustine, Boca Raton, and San Diego, as well as distance education and continuing education programs. Hillyard also served as president of Rockwell University, a two-campus and distance education provider of career-oriented information technology degree and certificate programs in the Washington, D.C. area. He was also formerly provost and executive vice president of the American Public University System, where he oversaw academic policy and operations for the American Public University's, American Military University's and American Community College's 15,000 students, 350 faculty members, and 160 degrees and programs. Earlier in his academic career, he served initially as Academic Programs Manager and then as Academic Dean of the American Military University. Hillyard's professional service has included being a member of the Commonwealth of Virginia's Career College Advisory Board, an institutional representative for higher education regulations with the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, and a certified accreditation evaluator, accreditation team chair, and member of the Research and Educational Standards Committee for the Distance Education and Training Council. He has also provided international expertise on behalf of the Hong Kong government’s accreditation council, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s national accreditation commission, and Egypt’s national accreditation authority. Hillyard has served as a board member for Waldorf College (Iowa), Catholic Distance University, St. Johns County (Florida) Chamber of Commerce, American Red Cross's Jefferson and Morgan Counties (West Virginia) Chapter, and San Diego, California-based Float, Incorporated — a producer of offshore oil/gas, port, and power plant platform technologies.
Hillyard’s public service included a brief campaign and candidacy for the U.S. Congress and early career responsibilities as a U.S. Marine Corps Officer — service that was hallmarked in duties at the Pentagon as a national security analyst for the Commandant of the Marine Corps' Strategic Initiatives Group, membership on the Marine Corps' first Quadrennial Defense Review Task Force, and independent research with the Center for Naval Analysis. His active duty and reserve military experience culminated with the rank of major. The author of numerous publications in areas of national security, military affairs, leadership, and education, Hillyard’s books include "Public Crisis Management: How and Why Organizations Work Together to Solve Society's Most Threatening Problems" (2000); "Cincinnatus and the Citizen-Servant Ideal: The Roman Legend's Life, Times, and Legacy" (2001);"Homeland Security and the Need for Change: Organizing Principles, Governing Institutions, and American Culture" (2003); and "A World of Sources: Insights from a Life of Reading" (2009). Hillyard has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Miami University (Ohio), a master's in military studies from the American Military University, and a master's and doctorate of public administration from the University of Southern California. He has also completed post-doctoral studies with Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.
With his wife (Cara) and their two sons (Andrew and Alexander), the Hillyard family resides in northeastern Florida.
VADM Gerald L. Hoewing, Trustee
Vice Admiral Hoewing a native of Keokuk, Iowa was commissioned an ensign from Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Science degree. He flew the A-7E Corsair II light attack aircraft on multiple deployments to the Western Pacific (WESTPAC) on USS Constellation (CV-64) and USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), followed by multiple Mediterranean and Indian Ocean deployments on USS Independence (CV-62) and USS Forrestal (CV-59).
Hoewing was the Operational Test Director for the F/A-18 Hornet aircraft during its initial operation evaluation and later commanded VFA-81 embarked in USS Saratoga (CV-60) during Operation Desert Shield. Additional sea duty commands included USS Seattle (AOE-3), USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) and Commander Carrier Group SEVEN/USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) Battle Group.
His shore assignments include multiple tours of duty in the personnel domain ranging from Bureau of Naval Personnel to the Office of Secretary of Defense. Hoewing’s final active-duty assignment was as deputy chief of Naval Operations (Manpower and Personnel, Training and Education)/Chief of Naval Personnel. Hoewing’s current position is president and CEO of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, the private fund-raising arm of the National Museum of Naval Aviation and National Flight Academy.
Forney Howard, Trustee
Howard is a retired fire chief for the City of Orange Beach, Alabama. In April 2004, he was appointed interim fire chief. The following month, he was confirmed by the mayor and City Council as the second career fire chief in the history of Orange Beach. His experience and abilities were tested quickly in 2004 as fire chief and emergency management director when Hurricane Ivan hit the Gulf Coast. Before serving as chief, Howard worked in several positions including firefighter, paramedic, training officer and fire inspector. He came to Orange Beach after 30 years with the Birmingham Fire Department. Upon retiring, he had achieved the rank of battalion chief and was working in the eastern district of Birmingham as operations chief. He also served in the Training Division for five years as captain and as chief of training. As battalion chief, he also served as chief of fire communications. He was part of the first paramedic class in Alabama during the summer of 1973. The students were trained at the University of Alabama Regional Technical Institute in Birmingham and licensed by the State Department of Health.
He has attended many National Fire Academy classes and completed fire service courses for certification through the Alabama Fire College. He is a 2008 graduate of Columbia Southern University with a bachelor's in fire science. He was 62 years old. He reminds everyone that he had the honor and privilege of speaking at his own graduation and this is something he will never forget. Later, he was named CSU’s Outstanding Graduate of the Year.
Howard served on the Board of Trustees for the South Baldwin Medical Center in Baldwin County. His work history includes the University of Alabama Emergency Room as an EMT for almost four years. He served at the Jim Walter Coke Oven Operations / North Birmingham as a clinic paramedic for 13 years and as a regional coordinator for the Alabama Fire College for seven years. He was recognized as Firefighter of the Year in 2003, Emergency Technician of the Year in 1975, and is a past president of the Alabama Association of Fire Chiefs.
Mrs. Minnie Mayes, Trustee
Mrs. Mayes is a co-founder of Columbia Southern and serves in an executive advisory capacity at CSU. Mrs. Mayes has also been with CSU since its founding and is on the Board of Directors and follows strict ethical standards and requires that all staff members do likewise. Before CSU, Minnie co-founded a safety consulting company that provided training and services to small businesses nationwide. Mrs. Mayes has much knowledge about CSU through her long tenure as a board member and numerous work and advisory experiences in all aspects of distance study during the past 15 years.
Robert Mayes, Jr., Trustee
Mr. Mayes is co-founder and president of Columbia Southern University (CSU). Mr. Mayes is a pioneer in online education with 15 years of experience in the distance learning industry. He has served as the President of CSU, one of the nation’s first online universities, since 2005. CSU was originally established in 1993 by his father, Dr. Robert Mayes.
CSU encompasses students from all 50 U.S. states and around the world. More than 500 full-time faculty and staff support an active student body of over 29,000. Robert works closely with all departments to create a uniform student experience from application to graduation and to implement change initiatives. He is directly involved in meeting accreditation standards and regulatory compliance, outcomes assessment, university policies and procedures, developing outside relationships, strategic planning, and new ventures and initiatives that move the University forward. In 2009 and 2010, he lead the efforts and due diligence to acquire Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa. He is CEO of Columbia Southern Education Group, the parent company of Columbia Southern University and Waldorf College.
Mr. Mayes holds an Associates of Applied Science from Faulkner State Junior College, a Bachelor of Science from Columbia Southern, and an MBA from Capella University.
He serves on the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), a nationally recognized accrediting agency. Other committee and board positions include DETC Business Standards Evaluator, DETC Business Standards Committee member, DETC Finance Committee member and a board member of the Alabama Association of Private Colleges and Schools, and the Chairman of the Board of South Baldwin Christian Academy.
Ed Meehan, Trustee
Mr. Meehan is the founder of Arcady Bay Partners, an advisory firm that works with companies and investors in the technology and education sectors as an investor and advisor on financing, merger and acquisition matters. In addition, he has done advisory work for several well-known investor groups in the education and technology sectors.
He formed Arcady Bay Partners in 2002 and has worked with companies such as Lime Energy, Encorp, Venetica, eko Systems, Provost Systems, MedTech College and others on M&A and fund-raising assignments.
From June 1998 to January 2002, Meehan was a managing director with Legg Mason, responsible for overseeing their technology banking efforts in Reston, Va., focusing on Internet-based business models. During that time, his group completed more than 25 financing and advisory assignments in the technology and education sectors. Meehan was responsible for raising private equity for companies such as Capella Education, register.com and Marketswitch and IPO’s for Bluestone Software, register.com and U.S. Internetworking.
From 1978 to 1995, he was with Merrill Lynch and from 1995 to 1998, he worked for Smith Barney in their respective New York City Investment Banking Groups. From 1978 to 1981, Meehan was an accountant and accounting manager working in the international and leasing departments at Merrill Lynch. In 1981 Ed became an investment banker. At Merrill Lynch he worked on structuring investment partnerships, did M&A work for Merrill Lynch corporate initiatives and worked with several U.S. public utilities such as PSE&G, Baltimore Gas and Electric, Southern Company, Texas Utilities, and Portland General. In his capacity as a utility and energy banker at Merrill Lynch, and later Smith Barney, he worked on more than 100 public debt and equity financing transactions, raising billions of dollars for clients in the sector as well as numerous M&A and strategic assignments.
Meehan has an MBA in finance and bachelor’s degree in accounting from St. John's University in New York. He is also/was a board member of eko Systems, Vision Chain, Infotility, MindShare and Straighterline.com.
Jesse Smith Ph.D., Trustee
Dr. Smith is president of Jones County Junior College, Ellisville, Mississippi. In July 2006, Smith joined an elite set of men when he was named the fifth president of Jones County Junior College. Smith is a native of Jones County and graduated from the college in 1987. He has been employed at Jones for 17 years, five of those as president. Previously, he held several positions as dean of the college, dean of instructional affairs, and academic dean. Smith also spent time teaching business courses when he first arrived at Jones. He earned a doctorate from the University of Southern Mississippi, an MBA and BBA from the University of Mississippi, and an associate degree from JCJC. As a student, Smith was a member of the JCJC Choir and participated in many performances. He has a performing arts background that ranges from singing in several productions with the Mississippi Opera and the National Opera Association to singing to audiences at churches.
Smith’s wife, Jennifer is also a graduate of JCJC. The two were engaged when they both began working at the college in 1994. The Smiths live on the JCJC campus with their two children, Mary Kate and Conner.
Over the course of his career, Smith has received several recognitions including the Top 40 Under 40 award, a fellow in the Educational Profession Fellowship Program and also in Mid-South Community College Fellowship Program. Smith served as president of the Academic Deans Association of Mississippi Junior/Community College System. Smith also won the Metropolitan Opera Competition in Oxford, Miss.
The Smiths attend First Baptist Church of Ellisville. Smith also serves as a deacon.
John G. Thornell Ph.D., Trustee
Dr. Thornell is provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of North Alabama. He has served in that position since June, 2009. Prior to that, he served two years as vice president for academic affairs at North Carolina Wesleyan College and previously served for seven years as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Delta State University. He also served as interim president of Delta State in 2003. Other former academic appointments include dean of the graduate school and associate provost at Delta State and prior to that, a faculty appointment in the College of Education.
He earned undergraduate and master’s degrees at Delta State University in 1969 and 1972, respectively. Afterward, he served as a public school teacher for three years in Greenville, Miss. He returned to graduate school and earned a doctorate in curriculum and instruction at the University of Texas in 1975. Additional studies include doing postdoctoral work in higher education administration at the University of Michigan in the summer 1986 and graduate work in Asian history at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the summer 1993. He also earned a master’s degree in history from Delta State in 1993.
During his career in higher education, he has been active in teaching, research, and professional service. Thornell has served in leadership roles in state and regional organizations, including current membership as a trustee of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. He also has a record of remaining active in teaching on a part-time basis in history, including the development of new coursework on the Civil War and also race and culture in the Mississippi Delta. He has a successful record of grants and scholarship, including more than 60 articles and presentations.