Columbia Southern University Celebrates 30th anniversary, Graduates Today at OWA


ORANGE BEACH, Ala. – More than 700 graduates and 3,000 guests attended Columbia Southern University’s two commencement ceremonies at the Foley Event Center at OWA in Foley, Alabama.

To accommodate the large number of graduates and guests, a morning and afternoon ceremony was held. This year’s ceremonies also marked the 30th anniversary of the university’s founding, which CSU President Ken Styron touted in his speech.

“In its three decades, CSU has granted more than 100,000 diplomas and ushered more than 60,000 graduates into the next chapter of their lives,” said Styron, adding his congratulations to all. “Today we celebrate you and the extraordinary accomplishments that you’ve achieved. Even with the responsibilities that each of you have, you found a way to achieve your goal.”

Styron mentioned one of the day’s graduates, Robert Giles, in his remarks. Giles struggled with finding time to finish his associate degree and working two jobs with a family. However, with encouragement, he enrolled in CSU, got his credits transferred and was able to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and become the first in his family to graduate college.

This year’s keynote speaker, occupational safety and health expert Russell J. Kendzior, praised Giles and the other graduates on their successes.

“I want to tell you how impressed I am by all of you and the sacrifices your families have made for you—the foundation that go you to where you are,” he said, later pointing out that he toiled three years before he achieved success with his floor cleaning products. “Failure was a great teacher for me and is for all of you ... I would encourage you dreamers to not be afraid of failure. Failure is going to help you.”

The ceremonies also featured the announcement of the 2023 Robert Mayes Sr. Distinguished Faculty of the Year Award. This annual award recognizes and honors CSU faculty for their outstanding achievements and contributions in aiding the university in achieving its mission to change lives through education. This year’s recipients included the following professors:

  • Justin Heim, Ph.D., is the lead faculty of fire science and fire administration at CSU
  • Kevin Sweers, Ph.D., is the lead faculty for CSU’s Psychology Department and assisted with the duties of academic program director within College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Greg Evans, Ph.D., is currently the lead faculty member in CSU’s MBA program

The commencement ceremonies were live streamed on CSU’s YouTube channel. To watch the ceremonies on demand, visit

About Columbia Southern University

As an innovator in online education for 30 years, CSU was established to provide an alternative to the traditional university experience. CSU offers online associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees such as business administration, criminal justice, fire administration and occupational safety and health. Visit or call (877) 347-6050 to learn more.