Throughout his career at Case Western Reserve University, Derek Reinbold was the prototypical student-athlete. He successfully juggled study sessions, practice, tests and matches as a triple major (art history, international studies and political science) and tri-captain of the tennis team.
His balancing act came to a crossroads when the pinnacles of both his academic and athletic career—commencement and an Elite 8 match in the NCAA Championships—were to take place more than 2,300 miles apart on the same weekend.
By defeating No. 5 Carnegie Mellon University in the Round of 16, Reinbold and the No. 9 men’s tennis team became the first team in school history to compete in the NCAA Division III Men’s Tennis Championship Quarterfinals in Claremont, Calif.
“When I heard initially that there was the possibility that I would miss commencement, I was somewhat dreading the prospect,” Reinbold said. “But, when we beat Carnegie Mellon in the Round of 16, that fear was entirely dismissed. In a perfect world, I would have gone to both.”
Despite missing commencement, Reinbold’s academic achievements did not go unnoticed. At the championships, he was awarded the NCAA Elite 89 Award, becoming the first winner in school history. The Elite 89 Award is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA’s 89 championships. Reinbold graduated from CWRU with a flawless 4.0 cumulative GPA.
“I do not think I would have been able to achieve the same degree of success in the classroom without being a member of the tennis team,” Reinbold said. “It may seem counterintuitive to say, but the more I became involved with the team the better my time management became which made me a better student. So, although it is an individual award, I think the Elite 89 is a testament to the CWRU student-athlete [in general], and I was honored to receive it.”
The team’s impressive run finally came to a halt when they were defeated by No. 3 Middlebury College by a score of 5-1 in the quarterfinals. Despite the team’s loss, senior Eric Klawitter and sophomore CJ Krimbill went on to capture the 2014 NCAA Division III Men’s Tennis Doubles Championship.
“Unfortunately, we fell short as a team, but my two teammates are bringing home our program’s first national title in doubles,” Reinbold said. “Overall, being able to compete in the NCAA Championships was one of the best experiences I had as a tennis player at CWRU.”
Now an alumnus of Case Western Reserve, Reinbold is back in his native Indiana. He is working for the Department of Metropolitan Development in Indianapolis, focusing on homelessness in the area. This fall, Reinbold plans to apply for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship in hopes of following in the footsteps of his uncle, a recipient of the scholarship.
Reinbold is equipped with the tools for a multitude of future successes thanks, in part, to the help of his professors, coaches, teammates and friends he came across during his time at Case Western Reserve.
“I had an incredible overall experience,” Reinbold said. “But the friends I made—not just my teammates—made my time at CWRU the most consequential and fun of my life.”
Read more about the recent graduate and tennis ace Reinbold in this week’s five questions.
1. Who do you consider your greatest role model?
My mother is my role model. She was a professional tennis player, so the connection there is easy to make. But more than that, I’ve learned from the hard work and determination that has guided both her and my father’s lives. She was always around when I was growing up, and she often made the trip to see me play my big matches. I’m thankful that I have been able to achieve some success with tennis and academics to make her proud.
2. How do you keep up with the news?
I subscribe to The New York Times and The Economist, so I read those as well as The Indianapolis Star. I also follow a number of political blogs and political writers on Twitter. It’s pretty easy to stay plugged in that way.
3. What is the most challenging class you’ve ever taken?
Political science 327: Civil Liberties in America, with Professor Laura Tartakoff. It takes a tremendous amount of work to succeed in Professor Tartakoff’s courses, but I loved every minute of it. Plus, I can still tell you which Supreme Court cases led to the incorporation of each of the clauses of the First Amendment against the states, if you’re into that kind of thing.
4. What do you consider to be the best invention of all time?
Huge fan of the wacky waving inflatable-arm-flailing tube man. It serves essentially zero purpose, but it makes me smile at least.
5. What is your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
I think the sense of camaraderie among the students is one of the best features of CWRU, and I don’t think a lot of other universities have the same kind of environment. Whenever I succeeded at something, my friends knew about it and congratulated me. Whenever I failed, they knew, too, and they were my support system if I needed it.