Article courtesy of Matt Higgins – Assistant to the Executive Director of the MIAC
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Recently, Dr. Al Molde completed an incredible 40-year career in college athletics, including the past 15 years as the athletic director at his alma mater, Gustavus Adolphus College. In appreciation for his contributions to the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) and Gustavus, the conference has honored Molde with the prestigious 2011-12 MIAC Distinguished Service Award.
The award, presented to Molde by his fellow athletic directors at the May MIAC Athletic Director’s Council meeting, is the highest honor bestowed upon an individual from the MIAC. The MIAC Distinguished Service Award is presented to an individual who has made significant contributions to their institution and to the conference, and by that criteria, Molde is certainly a worthy and deserving recipient.
“I am very honored to be receiving this award,” Molde said. “I consider the MIAC athletic directors to be not only colleagues and friends, but a fabulous group of committed professionals. To receive such an award from this group is humbling to say the least.”
“Al Molde’s service, leadership and commitment to the well-being of his student-athletes makes him a very deserving recipient of the MIAC’s highest honor,” said MIAC Executive Director Dan McKane. “Under his leadership, the Gustavus athletic department has been one of the MIAC’s model institutions, and his knowledge, expertise and commitment have undoubtedly benefitted the entire conference. We’re forever grateful for Al’s contributions.”
Molde announced his retirement in December and stepped down from his athletic director role at the completion of the 2011-12 academic year. Molde, a 1966 graduate of Gustavus and a Montevideo, Minn. native, replaced Jim “Moose” Malmquist when Malmquist retired in 1997. He is one of only seven full-time athletics directors that have been employed by the college since the position was created in 1920.
The Gustavus athletic department has achieved unprecedented success during Molde’s 15-year career including 14 top 25 finishes in the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Directors’ Cup standings (highlighted by a sixth-place finish in 2002-03), six Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) All-Sports titles (five by the women and one by the men), 21 NCAA Postgraduate Scholars, 66 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans and 130 NCAA National Tournament team invitations, including 17 NCAA Final Four appearances and one NCAA National Championship claimed by the men’s golf team (2004).
Molde’s service to the MIAC has also been beneficial to the conference, its institutions and its coaches. Molde served as the chair of the MIAC Athletic Director’s Council for three years, and has spent several years as the athletic director liaison to the council for men’s hockey and men’s and women’s soccer. Molde also served on the search committee for the MIAC’s executive director position in 2005.
“It has been very special to finish my working career at my alma mater,” Molde said. “I had 15 great years here. We have met many challenges along the way, but I take a lot of pride in the fact that we have been able to overcome them and be very successful. The Gustavus athletic department is among the national leaders and that is something I am very proud of.”
In addition to Gustavus’ success on the court and in the classroom, Molde’s commitment to student-athlete well-being has been prevalent in other areas as well. He supported the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB), Student Athletes in Volunteer Endeavors (SAVE) and has been a leader in innovative programs for health, wellness, and leadership opportunities
Molde was also instrumental in several building projects. The first was a complete overhaul of the Lund Center for Health, Exercise Science, and Athletics after the 1998 tornado, and the last was coordinating the building of a state-of-the-art football stadium in 2007.
“I feel like I’m leaving with Gustavus athletics in an outstanding state,” Molde said.
Despite all the tangible success and accomplishments, Molde’s fondest memories of his career at Gustavus involve his interactions with student-athletes, coaches, administrators and colleagues.
“The people and my relationships I’ve formed are what I will take away the most,” Molde said. “We have top-notch, hard-working coaches and administrators at Gustavus and they have been great to work with.
Molde said he’ll miss his role as athletic director, but is looking forward to pursuing some of his other interests and passions and additional time at his cabin in Battle Lake, Minn. Molde is also excited to spend more time with his wife, Ingrid, as well as their children and grandchildren. That includes Molde’s youngest son Evan, who was a Gustavus soccer and baseball student-athlete during his tenure.
He also plans to stay connected to the Gustie teams, student-athletes and coaches, but this time in a new role as an, “average fan,” and a proud alum.
“I would like to do some of the things that time would not allow when you are a coach and an administrator … grandchildren, the lake, fishing, relaxation, travel and all of the above,” Molde said. “This is the first time in my life that I actually get to be an average fan and maybe take part in a tailgate for once.”
Wherever life takes him, Molde’s tenure at Gustavus and the MIAC will be revered for years to come, and the conference’s administrators are pleased to show their gratitude for all he has done with the Distinguished Service Award. Molde is the 17th recipient of the honor since 2001, and the first since 2010.
“It’s a thrill to honor Al’s outstanding tenure at Gustavus and in the MIAC with the Distinguished Service Award,” McKane said. “On behalf of the entire conference, I’d like to congratulate him for this honor and for the completion of a terrific career in college athletics. We wish him all the best in retirement, and he will forever be a treasured friend of the MIAC and its institutions.”