Senior Spring: Konrad von Moltke ’15 leaves legacy as leader

by Ray Lu | 5/6/15 6:30pm

Konrad von Moltke ’15, swimming and diving co-captain, embodies the student-athlete.

When he was 10 years old, Konrad von Moltke ’15 never imagined that he would finish his collegiate career as a co-captain of Dartmouth’s swimming and diving team.

“I really started swimming because I wanted to be in this carpool with my three best friends,” von Moltke said. “I said, ‘Mom, how can I get in this carpool?’ And she said, ‘Well, you’re going to have to join the swim team.’”

As someone who embodies the role of a student-athlete, von Moltke has received accolades for his athletics and was one of 22 Phi Beta Kappa inductees from the class of 2015.

Von Moltke was born and raised in a small suburb north of Chicago. An only child, he spent a lot of time with his close-knit family. Sports were a big part of his life, and one could often find him playing lacrosse, hockey or water polo whenever he wasn’t swimming in the pool.

“I had tons of energy,” von Moltke said. “I would always run around the house.”

His hometown spanned just one square mile, and von Moltke attended a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school with only 60 or so kids per graduating class. Since the local New Trier Township High School boasted an enrollment of more than 1,000 kids in each grade, entering high school was a big change for von Moltke. Taking after his father, who swam for Northwestern University from 1978 to 1982, von Moltke began to take the sport more seriously.

“He didn’t ever push me to swim,” von Moltke said. “He wanted me to just do whatever I wanted to do, but he does throw me some technique tips and pointers every once in a while.”

In his sophomore season, von Moltke’s high school swim team won the state championship. In addition, von Moltke played water polo in the spring and swam on the club circuit in summer. As he progressed throughout high school, von Moltke picked up numerous athletic accolades. Academics, however, still played a crucial part of his life and were one of his top priorities entering the recruiting process. For him, the Ivy League was the ultimate goal.

“I loved the fact that all of the coaches in the Ivy League, especially at Dartmouth, really would’ve given me the opportunity to swim at a high level and to have a great education because that’s going to stay with you forever,” von Moltke said.

After five official visits, von Moltke felt himself drawn to the small school in Hanover where he had the opportunity to swim for an up-and-coming program and could take advantage of an intimate academic setting.

“I just absolutely loved the campus,” von Moltke said. “Everyone who I talked to, all my host’s friends, they were all so pumped up about Dartmouth, and they all seemed really excited about how special this place was.”

As is common with many freshmen student-athletes, von Moltke had a transitional phase in both athletics and academics.

“Freshman year of college was a huge adjustment period,” von Moltke said. “I had gotten a little bit of that when I had gone from eight grade to ninth grade in high school, joining the varsity team as the smallest guy on the team. All these guys are three years [or] three-and-a-half years older than you.”

Nonetheless, upperclassmen on the team were quick to help.

“It was great because all the guys on the team, especially the [members of the Class of 2012], were super supportive and great mentors,” von Moltke said. “I remember I had a thousand questions about classes and dorms and swimming and everything, and they were ready to answer all of them.”

With the support and mentorship of his team, von Moltke enjoyed a fantastic freshman campaign. He specializes in the breast stroke and the individual medley, and his freshman season saw him drop time in each of his races. A steady and consistent first season on the water, Moltke said, helped him grow and improve throughout his career, culminating in captaincy this past season.

“It’s obviously a huge honor to be voted team captain for the senior year,” von Moltke said. “I think it’s a testament to my work ethic and the fact that people respect me on the team.”

Von Moltke’s road to captaincy was similar to his journey in high school. In both cases, he had three years to learn from other leaders before becoming captain himself. His mentality reflects what he has learned over the years.

“To be a really good leader, you have to be a good follower to a certain point because you have to know what it’s like to be in all the positions on the team,” von Moltke said. “Whether you’re the fastest guy or the slowest guy, it doesn’t really matter — you can still be a leader.”

Traditionally, the Ivy League men’s swimming and diving circuit has been dominated by Harvard, Yale and Princeton Universities. Together, three powerhouses account for all but seven of the 74 Ivy League championships — shared and outright — that have been crowned since the sport began. Dartmouth and Brown University represent the only two of the Ancient Eight to have never won a men’s swimming and diving championship.

Nonetheless, the Big Green has seen improvement in the past three years, finishing fifth in total points in 2012 and 2013 and sixth in 2014 when only a few years prior the team was most commonly seen ranked last. Since von Moltke joined the Big Green, he has displayed an unwavering commitment to improving the program.

“A big principle for me is, if you’re going to do something, do it 100 percent the whole way,” von Moltke said. “So you really don’t want to hold back or have any reservations or any regrets.”

Von Moltke, an economics major and environmental studies minor, also applies these principles to his academic career.

His leadership and mentoring abilities translated to the classroom as well, as he served as a dean’s office consultant, an academic advisor and an advisor in Dartmouth Peak Performance.

“It’s always great to get awards, but I think the most important thing is to try your best in everything that you do,” von Moltke said.

Part of that mentality includes dedication to time management and maintaining a clear dialogue with professors.

“I would say that time management is one of the hardest things,” von Moltke said. “Whether you’re in athletics or in some other activity, I think time management is one of the most important skills you can have.”

During von Moltke’s freshman year, he took a first-year seminar with environmental studies professor Christopher Sneddon. The class inspired von Moltke to ask Sneddon about other opportunities in the department at the end of the term.

“The faculty [members] here are so impressive, and you can learn so much from them that it doesn’t make sense to waste it,” von Moltke said. “That’s one of the biggest challenges — being able to focus on all the different aspects of your experience.”

Von Moltke graduated at the end of the winter and is currently conducting research and serving as a teaching assistant for economics professors Douglas Irwin and Nina Pavcnik. In the summer, he will work full-time at Deutsche Bank’s New York office as part of a leveraged finance group. Von Moltke worked with Deutsche Bank last summer.

“[The job] is very comparable to athletics in that you’re working in teams on different deals,” von Moltke said. “I’m definitely going to take a lot of lessons on communication and teamwork into the workplace setting.”

Von Moltke plans to remain in the finance sector for a couple of years. In terms of a greater picture, that is still to come for him. Whatever happens after, it is clear that the College has made a lasting impression on von Moltke’s life.

“I’m not really sure what I want to do in the future, but I’ve definitely — through swimming and academics here — really been all about helping people and giving people guidance and advising and teaching as well, and I think becoming a professor is something that I would definitely look into in the future,” von Moltke said.

As for his career in the pool, von Moltke put the finishing touches on that this past season. His most memorable moments from his time swimming for the Big Green are drawn from the collective experiences he shared with his team

“In college [swimming], I found great success myself, but I think the team’s success was the most lasting,” von Moltke said. “Watching two of my other seniors, Ian Woon [’15] and Jay Schulte [’15], finish up their careers on really high notes this year was great, and it has been great to see them develop into strong leaders.”

Reflecting on his time at the College, von Moltke described leaving Hanover as bittersweet.

“Whenever you go into a next chapter in your life, it’s always important to look back on the last chapter and take a step back and really look at what your experience was like and try to draw some lessons from that for the future,” von Moltke said.

Von Moltke leaves Dartmouth as one of its most well-rounded student athletes. In an email statement that he sent after the conclusion of the interview, however, he was quick to attribute his success to the hard work of his parents, coaches and professors, as well as all of the opportunities Dartmouth provided him. For those looking to follow in his footsteps, he left a few choice words.

“Attach meaning to everything you do,” von Moltke said. “Think about why you are doing things and what you can gain from that [thing]. You can learn a lot from different people. Always keep your ears open and listen.”