Chairman & President
As the Chief Executive Officer of Columbia Southern Education Group, the parent company of Columbia Southern University (CSU) and Waldorf University, Robert Mayes provides strategy and leadership support to the institutions and is responsible for governmental affairs. 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 parents and sister, Chantell Mayes Cooley, in 1993. He transitioned to the role of president of 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 7,000 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. Mayes serves as a Member of the National Advisory Committee for Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), which reviews and advises the U.S. Secretary of Education on the recognition of accrediting agencies. He is chairman of the board of directors for South Baldwin Christian Academy. He serves as a board member of the Board of Certified Safety Professionals Foundation and a board member of the Business Council of Alabama. 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. In 2019, he was named the Distance Education Accrediting Commission’s Person of the Year.
Phillip L. Anthony, CPA is a graduate of the University of South Alabama with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting (Beta Alpha Psi) in July, 1994 and became a Certified Public Accountant in May 1997. Mr. Anthony became a partner with Anthony Financial Group, CPAs – Mobile / Gulf Shores in 1998. Mr. Anthony served as CFO and member of Executive Board of Management at A.B. Dick Southeastern, Inc. until 2003. Mr. Anthony now serves as Administrative Pastor at Christian Life Church in Orange Beach, AL, while continuing in a consulting role with Anthony Financial Group, CPAs. Mr. Anthony previously served on the Executive Board of Directors of the YMCA of Metro Mobile and on the Board of Directors of Calvary Christian Learning Center. Mr. Anthony married Jenny in April 2004 and they have two sons, Ben and Will as well as a daughter Claire.
Originally from Chatom Alabama, Charlie Baxter is a retired educator with nearly 40 years of experience in education. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business and master’s degree in agency family counseling with an education certification in school counseling from University of South Alabama. His educational background also includes a fellowship at University of Mississippi with advanced studies in school counseling. He served in various teaching and counseling positions in Washington County for 30 years before relocating to the Alabama Gulf coast where he worked as a guidance counselor for Foley Middle School and Foley Elementary School before retiring. An active advocate for education, Mr. Baxter continues to offer his services as a substitute teacher at Gulf Shores Elementary School and Gulf Shores Middle School and occasionally drives school buses. He is a member of First Baptist Church of Gulf Shores, a participant on their Child Development Center committee and choir member. He and his wife of 39 years, Bonnie, have two sons and one granddaughter.
Fred Franks has served in ministry for over thirty years. Ten years as youth pastor in Illinois and Florida in addition to District Youth Director in Illinois. For over twenty years Fred has served as lead pastor in churches in Illinois and California; as well as Vice President of Saul’s Consulting Services in Atlanta, Georgia, a leadership and stewardship firm. Fred currently serves as the Preaching and Vision Pastor of Christian Life…the Island Church – a position he assumed in May of 2011. Fred has served on numerous ministry and district boards including the Board of Directors and Chairman of the Board at his alma mater: Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. He is known as the ‘leader of leaders.’ Fred has a great passion for life and ministry, having spoken in churches all across America and around the world. He is a family man and has been married to his college sweetheart Liz for thirty years. They feel privileged to have their son Luke, his wife Michele, as well as their daughter Paige and her husband Matt serve in ministry with them.