Ed Helton’s Retirement Concludes 18-Year Columbus State Career

Staff Report

Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

Following a career marked by nearly two decades of representing Columbus State University in a variety of leadership and community outreach roles, Dr. Ed Helton retired from the university at the end of December.

Since July 2019, Helton has served as CSU’s chief of staff. In this role, he has provided leadership to the president’s Executive Leadership Team; helped prioritize CSU’s strategic initiatives, policy matters and long-range goals; and represented the president in a variety of internal and community roles. 

“So many areas of Columbus State University have benefited from Ed Helton’s leadership during the past two decades,” said President Chris Markwood. “Ed has been a consummate professional in his service as chief of staff, not to mention an incredible ambassador for the university throughout his entire CSU career.” 

Helton joined Columbus State University in 2002 as an adjunct professor of philosophy. In 2004, in addition to his teaching duties, he began serving as a consultant with CSU’s Leadership Institute. That role eventually grew to executive director of leadership and client relations, and later assistant vice president for leadership development.

Under his tenure, The Forum, the Leadership Institute’s signature event, flourished and helped establish CSU as a subject-matter expert in the areas of leadership development and executive coaching. The Forum has attracted annual audiences of 1,000-plus business leaders from the region through its engaging programming and keynote speakers that have included former heads of state, government leaders and business titans like President George and First Lady Laura Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally, and author and columnist Thomas Friedman.

In 2020, the Leadership Institute established the E.D. Helton Servant Leadership Scholarship in honor of his leadership and guidance over the years, as well as his service and dedication to The Forum. In 2019, then-commanding general of Fort Benning, Maj. Gen. Gary Brito, awarded Helton with the Commander’s Award for Public Service.

A two-time Samford University graduate, Helton holds a bachelor’s in communication and English, and a master’s in philosophy and religion. He also received a doctor of divinity degree from Judson College, and completed the Executive Education Certificate program in Harvard University’s Kennedy School.

Before his higher education career, Helton worked in the ministerial field — a career that began an associate minister as Southside Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

“My best jobs were my first job and my last job — and that's an incredible way to bookend a career,” Helton recalled with a group of CSU coworkers celebrating his retirement. 

Earlier in December, Markwood announced that Associate Provost Ron Williams is transitioning into the chief of staff role and will officially begin his tenure on Jan. 1st.