Golden boy Maty Wylie was a VIP guest at Sunderland College today when he officially opened its new £30million City Campus.
Former college student Matt, who won gold in the “splash and dash” S9 50 metres freestyle event in the Rio pool, cut the golden ribbon at a special ceremony, having been the overwhelming favourite among students to perform the opening duties at the new centre.
"Sunderland College played such an important role in my own personal development, so it is fantastic to be offered the chance to cut the ribbon on this fantastic new facility," said Matt.
"My life has changed dramatically over the last 12 months, but it only happened as a result of a huge amount of hard work and commitment. City Campus provides students with a unique environment to fulfil their potential, but ultimately it will come down to their own desire and ambition to make the most of the opportunity this facility offers.
"It's exciting to be back at the college even though it was the other site I went to because this place was still being built.
"It looks great and it still has the core principles of the other building from speaking to some of the teachers and students.
"On the way out to Rio the intention was just to get some valuable experience for the future.
"And even though I was world number one, to come away with a gold medal was a bit of a shock.
"All the events and things I've been asked to do since are a bonus for me, but if I've inspired even one person to achieve something then I'll be proud."
Mayor of Sunderland Coun Alan Emerson, who joined Matt at the opening, said: "I am delighted to have been invited to join Matt for this landmark event, with the new City Campus a fantastic asset to our city centre," he said.
"Matt is a fantastic example for us all, of what our young people can achieve if we provide them with the kind of help, support and educational and sports facilities that they need to develop their full potential."
College principal and chief executive Ellen Thinnesen said: "Matt’s achievements united a city and the whole of Sunderland celebrated his incredible victory at the summer’s Paralympics.
"He was the unanimous choice of both the staff and student body at Sunderland College and we were delighted he agreed to perform the ribbon cutting alongside the Mayor of Sunderland.
"The official opening is a proud moment in the college’s history. It is among the most impressive college buildings I have set foot in during my career in education – and I have been to a lot of colleges."