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.

Board Responsibilities

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.

board of trustees group

Forney Howard, Chairman of the Board

Forney HowardHoward 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.

Chantell Cooley, Trustee

Since 1989, Chantell Cooley has been at the forefront of online education, leveraging her knack for interpersonal communication and positive attitude to encourage adult learners to fulfill their goals through higher education. Cooley’s transition into the role of senior vice president in 2005 poised her with the opportunity to capitalize on these innate leadership abilities, driving both CSU and the industry forward into continued growth.

During her tenure with CSU, Cooley has led initiatives throughout many departments with tenacity and fervor, fueled by the work ethic and Christian ideals of her father, Dr. Robert Mayes Sr., CSU founder. One of Cooley’s most commendable capstone achievements include driving the CSU brand forward through the implementation of its innovative customer service model, an integral part of the university’s value system that remains in effect today. Cooley also enacted the successful Learning Partner program, where she served as director from 2004 – 2010. She used this platform to successfully build lasting relationships with Fortune 500 companies, organizations, associations, and local, county and state agencies that provide their employees with educational opportunities.

Akin to her successful career in higher education, Cooley has also led a parallel mentorship and scholarship program for young women who seek to improve their lives through higher education. She has spoken at numerous Christian and faith-based conferences, women’s leadership groups and military bases on the topics of leadership, professional development and personal growth through faith. Chantell is a published author, serves on the board of trustees for Columbia Southern University and Waldorf University, and is an active member of Liberty Church in Foley, Alabama.

Michael Hillyard DPA, Trustee

Michael HillyardDr. 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 University (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.

Gery C. Hochanadel, Ph.D., Trustee

Gery C. Hochanadel, Ph.D. Dr. Gery C. Hochanadel is Vice President of Academic Affairs at Cleveland University in Overland Park, Kansas. Cleveland University is a University with degree programs in Chiropractic, and Health Sciences. His quest is for Cleveland University to become one of the finest private health and wellness comprehensive universities in the Midwest. Dr. Hochanadel has accumulated over 35 years of experience in higher education administration.

He previously served as Provost at Parker University where he provided leadership for the transition of Parker to a comprehensive Health and Wellness University. During his tenure the University developed two new colleges; the College of Business and Technology and the College of Health and Wellness with ten new degree programs. Accreditation highlights at Parker include: led and coordinated the University’s reaffirmation by the Southern Association of College and Schools, Commission on Colleges in 2012 with no findings; leading and coordinated Parker University’s substantive changes approvals through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.

Prior to Parker University he served as the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at Keiser University, where his responsibilities included academic oversight of 19 campuses and 77 degree programs and coordination of all institutional and program specific accreditation. He led and coordinated the University’s reaffirmation by the Southern Association of College and Schools, Commission on Colleges with no findings; and substantive changes approvals through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. He had oversight for achieving program specific accreditation for twenty seven degree programs.

Dr. Hochanadel has served as President at two Community Colleges in the Midwest, and has experience as a Dean, program member and faculty member, and has extensive accreditation experience. During the past 30 years Dr. Hochanadel had the honor to serve as both committee chair and committee member on thirty committees for the Southern Association of colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. He served for ten years as both committee chair and committee member for the Higher Learning Commission. He served as a Commissioner and Chair of the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology.

Dr. Hochanadel has a Doctorate of Philosophy in Adult and Occupational Education from Kansas State University, a Master of Science in Education Administration from Fort Hays State University and Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration, also from Fort Hays State University.

VADM Gerald L. Hoewing, Trustee

Gerald HoewingVice Admiral Gerald L. Hoewing, USN (ret), 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, the F-14 Tomcat and the F/A-18 Hornet  aircraft on multiple deployments to the Western Pacific in USS Constellation (CV-64) and USS Kitty Hawk  (CV-63) followed by multiple Mediterranean and Indian Ocean deployments on USS Independence (CV-62), USS Forestall (CV-59) and USS Saratoga  (CV-60) .

Vice Admiral Hoewing was the Operational Test Director for the F/A-18 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) Carrier Strike Group.

His shore assignments include multiple assignments in the personnel domain ranging from the Bureau of Naval Personnel to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Vice Admiral Hoewing’s final active duty assignment was as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education) and Chief of Naval Personnel.

Following transition from active duty Vice Admiral Hoewing served as President and Chief Executive Officer, Naval Aviation Museum Foundation at the National Naval Aviation Museum and National Flight Academy in Pensacola, FL.  He currently serves as an Independent Education and Defense Industry Consultant.

Minnie Mayes, Trustee

Mimi MayesMrs. 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 for more than 20 years.

Robert Mayes, Jr., Trustee

Robert Mayes
Mr. Mayes is co-founder and president of Columbia Southern University. Mr. Mayes is a pioneer in online education with 20 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.

Columbia Southern University’s President and Co-Founder Robert Mayes began his career in the distance education industry alongside his father Dr. Robert Mayes with the establishment of CSU in 1993. Since then, CSU has evolved to encompass students from all 50 states and around the world. It has an active student body of more than 30,000 students supported by more than 1,000 faculty and staff.

During his tenure, Mayes has experienced all levels of online university operation including accounting, finance, IT, online course development, outcomes assessment, policies and procedures, relational database design and more. Mayes also manages external relationships and oversaw the acquisition of Waldorf College (now known as Waldorf University) in Forest City, Iowa in 2010.

Mayes holds an Associate in Applied Science from Faulkner State Community College, a Bachelor of Science from Columbia Southern University and a Master of Business Administration from Capella University. He serves as vice chairman for the board of directors of the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and as a member of its executive and nominating committees. Mayes is a board member of the Alabama Association of Private Colleges and Schools, chairman of the board of directors for South Baldwin Christian Academy, and he serves on the National Sheriff’s Association Education and Awards Committee. Mayes also holds the position of CEO of Columbia Southern Education Group, the parent company of Columbia Southern University and Waldorf University.

Ed Meehan, Trustee

Edward Meehan
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, and Marketswitch and IPO’s for Bluestone Software, 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

Jesse Smith Ph.D., Trustee

Jesse Smith
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.