When Dan Dougherty was finishing high school, he wasn’t sure college was for him. He also had doubts about whether being an artist could be a sustainable career.

He learned both would be good choices for him and, in part, he gives credit to Moraine Valley for quelling the qualms.

“I was initially reluctant to do any sort of higher education after high school,” the Andrew High School graduate said. “It all seemed overwhelming, particularly for someone who wanted to be an artist because I didn’t know if that was a viable career choice. I think I was lucky to have Moraine Valley to test the waters and see what was possible for me in terms of potential career paths. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Moraine Valley served as a bridge to better things and gave me space and opportunity to explore my options.”

He recalls with fondness working for the “Mastodon,” the college’s literary magazine.

“I really enjoyed the freedom the publication gave me to put comics in there. That was some of my first work in print. I’d probably cringe a little to see it now, but I’m still proud to have had that platform,” Dougherty said.

And he remembers humanities Professor Sean Doyle and the influence he had on a younger Dougherty.

“Mr. Doyle taught a lot of the philosophical and ethics courses, and I really enjoyed his perspective and insight,” he says.

Crediting Moraine Valley with helping to build a foundation for his education, Dougherty said in the two years he was at the college, he learned a lot about what he wanted and didn’t want to pursue.

“It helped narrow my focus and provide new tools for me to improve my craft.”

Today, Dougherty, who lives in Orland Park, is an award-winning illustrator and author, best known for his “Beardo” comic strip, one that reflects his everyday experiences.

“For my other works of fiction, like “Touching Evil” and “Floppy Cop,” I try to start with an idea I find interesting and then write it and rewrite it and rewrite it again and again. I think inspiration is a nice feeling but it’s not always there so it’s important to keep working instead of waiting for it to strike,” he said.

Accomplishments over his 15-year career include more than 50 published works he has written and/or illustrated and a number of awards, including Gary Reed Independent Creator of the Year award, the Eric Hoffer Award for children’s literature, two Purple Dragonfly Book awards for illustrations and three Shel Dorf awards, one of which was the Syndicated Print Strip of the Year.

Dougherty also enjoys maintaining interaction with students. He has returned to campus several times to be a participant in the Graphic Novel Symposium sponsored by the Moraine Valley Library, and teaches part-time at the International School of Comics in Chicago.

“I enjoy helping a new generation of creators understand the fundamental tools of storytelling,” Dougherty says. “Seeing people pursue their vision and being a part of helping that keeps me inspired and motivated when I go back to my work.”