Stuart’s courageous journey to graduation

Open University graduate Stuart Monks receiving the AOUG Award from Jayne Littlejohn with Heather Monks who nominated him. NNL-141221-151935009
Open University graduate Stuart Monks receiving the AOUG Award from Jayne Littlejohn with Heather Monks who nominated him. NNL-141221-151935009

An inspirational man from King’s Sutton has been given a special award after graduating from the Open University despite two family setbacks.

Stuart Monks, of Orchard Way, enrolled on a classical studies and humanities course in 2007 but while studying he supported his wife Heather after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2009 and also dealt with the death of his father Philip from cancer in 2012.

After his wife wrote to the Association of Open University Graduates (AOUG) about Mr Monks’ story, they felt he deserved recognition after graduating in difficult circumstances.

He was presented with an award at the Millenium Memorial Hall in King’s Sutton on Saturday and is the first person from the southern region to be given the honour in six years.

Mr Monks, 51, said: “I’ve really enjoyed the experience because as a carer you feel you cannot do anything like this, it is something really positive. I had a lot of exacerbating problems before I studied and was diagnosed with OCD. I felt studying really helped with it and was really proud at the graduation. The only tinge of sadness was not having my dad there with me.”

Despite the circumstances of his wife being diagnosed with cancer, Mr Monks managed to continue his studying while supporting her as she underwent chemotherapy in hospital for about 18 months.

After treatment saw his wife’s cancer go into remission, Mr Monks was to suffer another blow when his father was diagnosed with cancer of the bladder in March 2011.

He died in May 2012 before his son could graduate.

After moving from Derbyshire to King’s Sutton to be closer to his mum Barbara following his dad’s death, Mr Monks successfully completed his course in December 2013 and graduated at the Birmingham Symphony Hall in June.

When receiving the award on Saturday, Mr Monks was accompanied by his wife, his mum, three daughters and close family members.

Representatives from the Association of Open University Graduate also attended.

Speaking about the achievement, Mrs Monks said: “I am extremely proud of Stuart.

“He said that doing this course saved his sanity and gave him something to focus on because of everything that was happening. Philip would have been really proud of Stuart; he was really supportive of him when he was studying. He would have loved to have been there at Stuart’s graduation but it wasn’t to be.”

The Open University is based in Milton Keynes and offers a range of flexible courses to cater for different situations.

Jayne Littlejohn, executive representative at AOUG, said: “I was really proud to be able to present Stuart with the award.

“To have the strength to continue and concentrate on his studies when his wife was seriously ill was something I admire him for.”