A Wearside man who suffered a horrific attack in his own home is celebrating after picking up an award work as part of his masters degree.
Anthony Anderson had a love of English for as long as he could remember, but it was only after a violent attack in his own home that he found the strength to pursue his passion for the written word.
That passion has now led him the stage of the Stadium of Light to collect his English Master’s Degree and pick up the John Buchan Prize for the Best Dissertation by an MA English Student at Sunderland University.
His lecturers selected his work for the prestigious annual prize for its “exceptional standard” and described him an “incredibly resilient individual and a “real life-changer”.
The brutal attack happened in 2010 when the 36-year-old was the victim of a 20-minute assault by a group of men who broke every bone in his face and ransacked his home.
It was only emergency surgery which saved him from being deformed for the rest of his life.
The men were never caught, and it took Anthony, from Washington, a year to recover from his injuries.
He endured months of surgery to rebuild the structure of his face with titanium plates and it was six months before he could eat properly, with his weight dropping to just eight stone.
He was also made redundant from his managerial role with a national bingo and casino chain.
It was while he lay recovering that he thought about how to could take his life forward.
“The attack was a traumatic experience to say the least, and the pain after surgery was at times excruciating," said Anthony.
"I’m well aware that others may have dealt with it differently, but I had a great network of family and friends around me, who helped me focus.
"The attackers made me a victim for 20 minutes, but they weren’t going to do it for the rest of my life, that’s for sure.”
His love of English and creative writing had never wavered since his school days, but he admits he made the “wrong” choices in his early days from giving up a place at London’s Royal Academy of Music to completing a History BA degree, before working full-time for 10 years.
He decided he would finally take the plunge back into higher education and completed an English and Creative Writing Course with the Open University, all while working full-time.
He loved the course and was inspired to take his career further by signing up for the Master’s degree at Sunderland, but his confidence of returning to the classroom after such a long time made him apprehensive.
Despite that early wobble, Anthony found university life - and his fellow students of all ages and backgrounds - inspiring, and his grades continued to rise.
He also managed to overcome a collapsed lung half way through his first term and had to take a month off to recover.
Despite the setback he still managed to achieve an 85 per cent grading for his dissertation. This he based on culturally traumatic events that indelibly marked society from the Holocaust and Slavery right up to the modern #MeToo movement, and how Gothic Science Fiction confronts the patriarchal issues in our society.
Anthony's work was selected for the John Buchan Prize.
Buchan was a novelist, historian, journalist, politician, soldier and public servant, and is best known for his influential espionage novel, The Thirty-Nine Steps.
Anthony was presented with his award at the university’s Winter Academic Awards Ceremonies by John Buchan’s granddaughter, Laura Crackanthorpe.
Dr Alison Younger, Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Sunderland, said: “Anthony thoroughly deserves this award; his work was exceptional, and he was a joy to teach.
"We were so impressed with his resilience, given all he’s been through, he’s a real life-changer.”
Long term, Anthony says he wants to eventually teach his beloved English subject, and will begin his PhD next February at the university.