A Leader in The Classroom and The Community: Dr. Dale Van Cantfort


Dr. Dale Van Cantfort posing next to his Rotary award. // Photo Courtesy of Dr. Van Cantfort.

Brett Loftis, Magazine Editor

Leadership cannot be taught; rather, leaders are born.  Dr. Dale Van Cantfort, Professor of Mass Communications, is a born leader.  He was recognized as just that this past summer as he was awarded the 2020-21 David D. Stovall Habersham County Rotarian of the Year Award. 

“DVC is a pillar in the community, but also here at Piedmont University,” said Dr. Melissa Tingle, Assistant Professor, Mass Communications Associate Dean and Co-Chair. “He is able to integrate his connections that he has with Rotary into the classroom for our students by providing numerous opportunities. Dr. Van Cantfort is able to use his connections with Rotary to help provide students with real-life experiences in advertising and communications courses.”

 “DVC,” as Dr. Van Cantfort is commonly known as by his co-workers and students, works for the people around him.  This is shown through his work with the Rotary Club, as he has been involved with the organization for over four decades. This organization helps unite business and professional leaders in order to carry out projects that help the community and the world.

“Rotary is an international organization with clubs all over the world,” said Dr. Van Cantfort.  “I have been a member of the Habersham County Rotary Club for over a dozen years now, but I have been a member of Rotary dating back to 1975.”

DVC has been involved with a lot of different activities and events since joining Rotary.  However, perhaps the one activity that he has dedicated most of his time to is the Georgia Rotary Student Program.  

“When I think about Dr. Van Cantfort, I am very proud of him. He has dedicated a very large amount of time over the years to Rotary, especially when it comes to the Georgia Rotary Student Program,” said Dr. Janice Moss, Professor of Mass Communications.  “Across the United States, they offer scholarships to international students for one academic year.  Dr. Van Cantfort and his family have served as a host family for a number of our international students.”

However, there was a time when Dr. Van Cantfort was not able to be involved with the Rotary Club as much as he would have wanted to.  This time was when he first made the transition from the business world of owning local radio stations to becoming a professor at Piedmont University.  Because Rotary means so much to him, DVC had to change something where he could become more involved.

 “When I first made the transition to Piedmont, I was not the department chair, I was just a member of the department.  My department chair scheduled me for a class at noon on Thursdays.  Well, Rotary meets at noon,” said Dr. Van Cantfort.  “So, there was a period of time where I was not involved in Rotary because there was that conflict.  When I became chair, I rearranged my schedule on purpose so that I would be available on Thursday afternoons so that I would be able to attend Rotary.”

 The motto of the Rotary Club is “service above self.”  As a professor at a small private institution, they must be able to work closely and well with other students, professors and administration.  No one does this better than DVC. 

 “I just have so much respect for him, the work that he has done and what he continues to do in the Rotary Club,” said Dr. Moss. “We have our motto, ‘service above self,’ and he is definitely a testament to service above self. Even here at Piedmont, he always thinks about us before his needs. To me, he will always be a living legend.” 

 Usually, being involved means knowing all the ins and outs of what is going on.  This is each little-known fact, well-kept secret and whatever else confidential information that is out there.  Yet, there was one secret that the Rotary Club was able to keep from Dr. Van Cantfort. 

 “First off, it was totally unexpected and a very well-kept secret. There were a number of other Rotarians who were as deserving if not more deserving of the award. The award is called the ‘Rotarian of the Year’ but it is usually given as a way to recognize someone who has given more than one year,” said Dr. Van Cantfort. “They have put in a number of year’s worth of activities, showing the consistency of being involved and putting service above self.  I am humbled by it, and I am certainly very appreciative of it.”

 When most students first encounter DVC, they are intimidated.  They fear that he is going to be one of the toughest professors at Piedmont without truly caring for his students. However, DVC is quite the opposite.  He is one of the most respected, well-liked and cherished professors not only in the mass communications department, but at Piedmont University as a whole.  So how can a man appear as such an intimidating figure, yet be one of the most appreciated people in the entire Piedmont University community? 

 “DVC is no ‘paper tiger.’  He taught me that word.  A ‘paper tiger’ is somebody who appears very tough on the outside, but is actually weak and ineffectual. He is a legitimate tiger,” said Dr. Tingle. “Here around campus, he is a fantastic mentor, and he is one of the greatest advocates I have ever encountered in higher education.  He is very well respected around here by his peers, the faculty, amongst the administration and by the students.  I know when a lot of students first encounter him they are intimidated by him, but over time as they get to know him, they realize the heart of gold that he has.”

Don’t be too intimidated by Piedmont’s Rotarian of the Year. Remember to congratulate DVC and show your appreciation for him and his accomplishment!