One in a series of stories about student-athletes who have exhibited exceptional educational motivation in their field of study.
By Andrew Crum
Every semester, Molloy College art professor Kathleen Mahoney likes to challenge her students with a project that allows them to work outside their basic curriculum, to pique their creativity and experience working with a professional client.
When junior art student Tyler De La Torre learned at the end of semester that the particular project was designing the top of a doughnut box for Dunkin Donuts, he was instantly excited. The project, which started as a graded class project, turned into something more for him, and a national company ended up recognizing De La Torre as a high-end artist.
That’s because De La Torre was the runner-up in the second annual “Donut Art” contest – one of eight finalists for his design. When asked what inspired his work (featuring Dunkin Donuts strawberry doughnuts with sprinkles), he simply replied, “Because they’re my favorite.”
De La Torre, a digital-art major and forward on the Molloy men’s soccer team, wasn’t born with natural artistic abilities. His siblings, a brother and a sister, were artistically gifted and grew up drawing and painting. Though he tried to emulate their abilities, he could not match their creativity.
That soon changed. At age 13, De La Torre found his personal medium and creative outlet: computers – specifically, the image software Adobe Photoshop. He began a regimen of self-taught tutorials and learned the program in a few months, mastering the software by the time he finished high school.
As a freshman at Molloy, De La Torre initially didn’t pick a major and was not yet a starter for soccer coach Danny Longo. Both soon changed. Academically, the notably hard worker chose interdisciplinary studies with concentrations in art and computer information science. And a half dozen games into his freshman season, De La Torre became a starter. He continues to thrive in the starting lineup.
When De La Torre took his first class with professor Mahoney, she inspired him to make his art projects better, encouraging him to work toward his potential and offering suggestions to help in his creativity. Mahoney describes this inspiration to her students as “making the world a beautiful place.”
The Dunkin Donuts project, which took the place of the semester’s final project, was particularly fun for the art students, but it also was an opportunity for them to be recognized outside of Molloy. Mahoney emphasized the importance of those outside projects to help her students learn career skills, particularly listening to clients and developing professional and people skills. She encouraged her students to keep striving to be creative, and her efforts paid off.
When De La Torre found out he was one of the eight finalists, he was “very surprised,” but Mahoney wasn’t. She knew how talented he was and was “very proud of him” that a national company recognized him at such a high level. Though it didn’t seem real at first, the accomplishment sank in for De La Torre when a couple of his aunts brought him printed versions of the doughnut boxes with his artwork displayed on top.
All eight finalists had their artwork featured on limited-edition doughnut boxes in more than 1,500 Dunkin Donuts stores in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Although De La Torre continues to excel on the soccer field, his education is his first priority. His head coach echoes that sentiment. “You’re a student-athlete, not an athlete-student,” Longo said. “We push them toward education first – that’s why they’re here. If you have class, that comes first, before practice and even games.”
Longo proudly displays in his office a crest for the soccer team that De La Torre designed for an art project.
As he continues his four-year program, De La Torre already knows that art will be a part of his career. He strives to be a graphic designer, possibly web design with a particular interest in photo retouching. In a Photoshop class, he learned the skills used by professionals to correct images and knew with his advanced knowledge of the software that he could be on to a possible career path.
As with many people who are good at what they do, De La Torre creates effortlessly.
“I don’t look at things for inspiration,” he said. “I create from within. It just comes out.”