Historic PhD Graduates, Gérard and Sylnita Filies, Awarded 2019’s Most Inspirational Couple




Last year, they redefined what it means to have ‘couple goals’. This year, their historic PhD milestone was recognised when they won the Platinum Award for 2019’s Most Inspirational Couple.

For those that have not followed this remarkable story, here is a quick recap. Last year, Mr and Mrs Filies made history at UWC when they graduated with their PhD degrees at the same time. They are now known as, Dr. (Gérard) Fillies and Dr. (Sylnita) Swartz-Filies.

They received the Platinum Award at the 7th Annual ‘I Do Magazine Awards’ in Sandton, Gauteng. The award, which identifies couples that have contributed positively to inspiring and influencing other married couples, is held by ‘I Do Magazine’. The magazine’s goal is to encourage stable marriages which it considers key to stable families.

Gérard and Sylnita won in the Platinum category, which is a category for couples that have been married between 10 and 20 years. The founder of both the award and the magazine, Felicia Buthelezi, says that at the Platinum stage, couples feel like they don’t have to work on their marriage. The Platinum category aims to celebrate those couples that have not stopped putting work into their marriage and continues to inspire other couples.

The other categories of the awards include Silver, for couples married between one to five years, and the Diamond Category, for those couples married for more than 20 years.

Some of the recipients of the award included former 7de Laan actor, Zane Meas and Mpho Tshabalala, wife of the late kwaito star, Mandoza. Zane was awarded for ‘Most Inspirational Man of the Year’ for the work he has done through his Fatherhood Foundation of South Africa and Mpho was awarded ‘Most Inspirational Woman of the Year’ for her work with cancer patients through the Mandoza Foundation.

We asked the couple a few questions and here is what they had to say.

How do you feel about winning the award?

It feels like a dream, something you only see on TV. We feel blessed and honoured to be in this position. We also feel that there is a higher purpose for us in receiving this award. We need to share our story as far as possible, not to boast about our achievements but to inspire. We need more feel-good stories amongst all the horror stories we keep hearing about. Marriage is such a sacred institution and if our marriage could survive doing 2 PhDs at the same time, it can survive anything. We want to give hope to other couples. We want to be role models, we want to give hope to others out there that may be experiencing challenges in whatever form.

Are you looking forward to winning the Diamond award?

That would be a couple goal. We now need to give back and use this opportunity and position that God has put us in. It is no accident that God took two ordinary people and blessed them with this achievement. Our purpose here on earth is to serve others. We feel truly inspired by people like Zane Meas, Mpho Tshabala, Felicia Buthelezi and many others that we met at the I Do Awards ceremony.

What advice would you give to those married couples wanting to make it to ten years?

  • Always look out for each other – the small things you do for each other add up to the things that matter most in life.
  • Decide to do things together.
  • Marriage costs work & you have to work at it every day – it’s what you make of it.
  • Showing gratitude & appreciation daily is so important.
  • Affection towards your partner is vital.
  • If you can have fun in your marriage, you succeed every day at life.
  • We try to plan ahead and consider each other/family interests and preferences so everybody feels cared for, special and appreciated.
  • We talk about negative experiences, to work through hurt.
  • We laugh at our imperfections.
  • We recall positive experiences which bring warm feelings and motivate us to do better in future and to create even better ones.
  • We worship and pray together as a family. We encourage each other to work towards inner peace and believe that nothing is impossible for God.
  • We share meals and believe in sitting around the table together. We consider each other’s dietary preferences.

What advice would you give to those couples aiming to hold it all together?

  • Put God 1st – He needs to be in the middle of your relationship.
  • Old virtues of love, trust, honesty, respect, mutual understanding is vital.
  • There needs to be space in your togetherness as well.
  • Sort out misunderstandings, communication is key.
  • Say I love you every day.
  • Don’t go to bed angry.
  • Don’t allow extended families to influence your relationship/marriage. Focus on your immediate unit – see to your husband/wife & kids first. Create a safe space for your partner & kids.
  • We know that no family is perfect but we still strive for perfection and enjoy each other and what we bring to the table in terms of our uniqueness and personhood.
  • We realize, only when you love yourself and care for yourself, you can share the love with others.
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