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

Chief Forney Howard, Trustee

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.

Dennis Cariello, Trustee

Dennis-Cariello-sm-jpg.jpeg 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".

Janell Gibson, Trustee

Janell Gibson Janell Gibson is Vice President of Academic Operations at Parker University in Dallas, Texas. Parker, originally founded in 1982 as a chiropractic college, now offers associate, bachelor, and master degree programs centered on the practice, business, and technology of health care. In 2013, Janell moved from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to assist Parker with its expansion from a chiropractic college to a comprehensive university.

During her time at Parker, she has served as Vice President of Online Education and Associate Provost. Janell holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism from the University of Georgia and a Master’s in Psychology from Nova Southeastern University. She is currently working on a Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Prior to joining the Parker Team, Janell served as Associate Regional Vice-Chancellor of Academic Operations for Keiser University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She began her career in higher education as a Psychology instructor and progressed into the role of Behavioral and Social Sciences Department Chair.

After discovering the online world, Janell led Keiser’s distance education campus as the Dean of Academic Affairs. In 2006 Janell temporarily moved to Eastern Europe to teach at Moldova State University in Chișinău, Moldova. She treasured the amazing life experience of teaching students educated in the former Soviet Union territory. After returning from Eastern Europe, Janell continued in higher education administration and authored several textbook instructor manuals. She worked with a variety of publishers to develop interactive digital assets for online classes and authored a first edition Introduction to Psychology textbook with Dennis Coon and John Mitterer.

Janell enjoys outdoor activities, adores spending time with her Basset Hounds, and relishes traveling with her husband, Jim, to visit their children in Park City, Chicago, and Auckland, New Zealand. She looks forward to being an integral part of the expansion of Columbia Southern University.

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
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 approximately 30,000 students supported by more than 1,000 faculty and staff.

During his tenure, Mayes has had direct experience in many areas of University operations including accounting, finance, information technology, online course development, outcomes assessment, development of policies and procedures, accreditation and more. In 2009, Mayes led the efforts to acquire Waldorf College (now known as Waldorf University) in Forest City, Iowa.

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 previously served on the board of directors of the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). During his eight-year tenure, his committee work included the Finance, Executive, and Nominating Committees.  Mayes finished his last term as vice chairman. Mayes is a board member of the Alabama Association of Private Colleges and Schools, and serves as chairman of the board of directors for South Baldwin Christian Academy. Mayes also holds the position of CEO of Columbia Southern Education Group, the parent company of Columbia Southern University and Waldorf University. In 2017, Mayes was awarded the DEAC’s Distinguished Service Award.

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.