Board of Trustees

Columbia Southern University is governed by a nine to fifteen 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 operational 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 a minimum of four times per year. Two meetings are held via teleconference.

Questions concerning the Board of Trustees should be directed to the Office of the President, Columbia Southern University.

board of trustees group


Gery C. Hochanadel, PhD, TrusteeGery Hochanadel

Chairman of the Board

Dr. Gery C. Hochanadel retired from Cleveland University-Kansas City where he served as the Vice President of Academic Affairs. While at Cleveland University he led the University in becoming one of the finest private health and wellness universities in the Midwest, establishing the College of Health Sciences with new degree programs. Dr. Hochanadel has accumulated over 42 years of experience in higher education administration.

He served the last four years as Provost at Parker University in Dallas Texas, where he provided leadership for the transition of Parker College of Chiropractic to a comprehensive Health and Wellness University. During his tenure Parker developed two new colleges; the College of Business and Technology and the College of Health and Wellness with ten new degree programs. The student population increased from 720 to 1,050. He led and coordinated the University's reaffirmation by the Southern Association of College and Schools, Commission on Colleges in 2012.

Prior to Parker University he served as the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at Keiser University in Fort Lauderdale Florida, during his seventeen year tenure the University grew from 3 campuses, 7 degree programs and 850 students to 19 campuses, 77 degree programs and 12,000 students. He led and coordinated the University's reaffirmation by the Southern Association of College and Schools, Commission on Colleges.

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 42 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 and the Higher Learning Commission

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.

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.

MG (Ret) Byron S. Bagby, TrusteeByron Bagby

Byron S. Bagby, a retired Major General, is Managing Partner of BMB Solutions, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in executive leadership development and coaching, and strategy development. He served over 33 years of service in the United States Army before transitioning off active duty in 2011.

He has been assigned to five of the Army's ten combat divisions and has served in the Pentagon on the Joint Staff in the Directorate of Strategic Plans and Policy, and on the Department of the Army Staff.

Byron was Commandant of Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, VA, leading a faculty and staff of over 250 people in educating almost 2,500 students annually in nine different programs, one of which is accredited to confer a Masters' degree. He was Chief of the Office of Military Cooperation in Cairo, Egypt, and later Chief of Staff for U.S. Army, Europe, and Director of Operations for Joint Force Command – Brunssum (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).

He serves on: the Board of Directors for Management Support Technology, Inc.; and the Board of Advisors for Ryan Consulting Group (as Chairman). From 2012-17, he served on the Board of Trustees of Westminster College.

General Bagby is a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He earned a B.A. in Economics from Westminster College in 1978. Before serving on the faculty/staff at the United States Military Academy, he earned a master's degree in Higher Education from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

He has earned many honors and decorations, including the Westminster College Lifetime Alumni Achievement Award, the Fulton Public Schools Hall of Fame, two Army Distinguished Service Medals, and four Defense Superior Service Medals. He is qualified as an Army Ranger and a Master Parachutist.

Dennis Cariello, TrusteeDavid Cariello

Dennis Cariello is a Shareholder at Hogan Marren Babbo & Rose, Ltd. and the co-chairman of the firm's education practice. With more than 15 years of experience, and having served at the U.S. Department of Education as Deputy General Counsel for Postsecondary Education and Regulatory Services and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Enforcement in the Office for Civil Rights, Mr. Cariello has a diverse national law practice that allows him to provide a wide range of services to colleges and universities, student lenders, education investors, and education technology and service providers on Education Law and Policy, Corporate Transactions, Government & Regulatory Affairs, Title IX & Civil Rights, Privacy Law and Litigation. Mr. Cariello is also currently serving as a negotiator on the U.S. Department of Education's Negotiated Rulemaking Panel on "borrower defense to repayment".

Chantell Cooley, TrusteeChantell Cooley

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 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 included 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 successfully used this platform to build lasting relationships with Fortune 500 companies, organizations, associations, and local, county and state agencies that provide their employees with educational opportunities.

Chantell's faith is reflected in her ethics, passion, care for others and commitment to building people up. Her charitable work includes offering The Chantell Cooley Military Spouse Scholarships at CSU and Waldorf University and The Chantell Cooley Leadership Scholarships for Women at Waldorf University. Chantell is an accomplished author and has written several books including: Winning the Game of Life, an inspirational book, which chronicles her family's struggles and her journey into success and Stand on the Word, which emphasizes the power of the Scriptures and the importance of daily confessions of the Word of God. Chantell is a spiritual daughter of Marilyn Hickey. She is an ordained minister with credentials through Christian International Apolostic Network under Bishop Bill Hamon. Chantell and Tommy Cooley, her husband of 25 years, live in Gulf Shores, Alabama with their two grown children, Brooke and Dylan.

VADM (Ret.) Gerald L. Hoewing, TrusteeGerald Hoewing

Vice-Chairman, Board of Trustees

Vice 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.

Forney Howard, TrusteeForney Howard

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, the mayor and City Council confirmed him 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.

Minnie Mayes, TrusteeMimi Mayes

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, 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

As the Chief Executive Officer of Columbia Southern Education Group, the parent company of Columbia Southern University and Waldorf University, Robert Mayes provides strategy and leadership support to the institutions. Mr. Mayes has more than 25 years of experience in distance education.

Mayes co-founded Columbia Southern University, an online university headquartered in Orange Beach, Alabama, along with his father Dr. Robert G. Mayes and sister Chantell Mayes Cooley in 1993. He transitioned to the role of president at CSU in 2005 and served until May 2018. In his role as president of CSU, Mayes worked closely with leadership to accomplish the goals, objectives and strategies of the university. During this time, the University grew from 7000 students to 30,000. He was awarded the title president emeritus on May 1, 2018 for his contributions and impact on the University. Mayes also led the acquisition of Waldorf University (previously Waldorf College) in Forest City, Iowa in 2010, a task that included achieving approvals from the U.S. Department of Education and the Higher Learning Commission.

During his time at CSU, Mayes had direct experience in many areas of online university operations including key roles in accounting, finance, information technology, online course design, outcomes assessment, the development of policies and procedures, accreditation and more.

He is a board member of the Alabama Association of Private Colleges and Schools and chairman of the board of directors for South Baldwin Christian Academy. He served eight years on the board of the Distance Education Accrediting Commission board of directors and served on its executive, finance and nominating committees. In 2017, Mayes was awarded the Distance Education Accrediting Commission's Distinguished Service Award and was a Boy Scouts of America Golden Eagle Honoree.

Edward P. Meehan, Trustee

Chairman, Finance Committee

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, strategy, and merger and acquisition matters. In addition, he has done advisory work for several well-known investor groups in the education and technology sectors.

Ed formed Arcady Bay Partners in 2002 and has worked with companies such as Venetica, eko Systems, Provost Systems (sold to Edison Schools), EmpoweredU (sold to Qaulcomm), Helix LMS (sold to Ellucian) and others on M&A and fund-raising assignments.

From June 1998 to January 2002, Ed 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, he 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.

Mr. 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, Second Avenue Learning, MindShare and Straighterline.com.

Jesse Smith PhD, TrusteeJesse 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 24 years, 12 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 also won the Metropolitan Opera Competition in Oxford, Miss.

Dr. 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 has held or holds the following board appointments: Chair of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (2015-2017), Chair of the Education Achievement Council (2013-2017), Mississippi State Workforce Investment Board Member (2018-present), and South Mississippi Planning and Development District Board Member (2017-present).

The Smiths attend First Baptist Church of Ellisville. Smith also serves as a deacon.