As they clink wine glasses in their private wine cellar, the Schofields smile at one another from across the table. Two people that have traveled the world together, and cultivated one another’s career in their relentless pursuit of happiness, they fully appreciate one another as an integral part of the other’s success. Two high-level executives that have functioned in various support roles for the other at differing times, their adventure ultimately led them not only to the Texas Hill Country, but also to Cordillera Ranch.
Keitha was raised in the Houston area, the daughter of a music teacher and computer programmer, and was forever the good student. “To this day I regret that I never even played hookie!”, she laughs. Eventually enrolling at Stephen F. Austin, she pursued a major in Journalism and Sociology; both degrees that she credits with much of her success. She begins, “First of all, I didn’t have a specific plan after high school; I just knew that I wanted to graduate and go to college. So when I got my first acceptance letter to Stephen F, I quit searching and enrolled.” She continues, “I loved sociology – I built my career on communication, and all those years when there was a crisis in a company, all the CEO wanted to know was who, what, when, where, and why? So I could dial in that information quickly, and pretty soon people start looking for you. It’s really a Masters in leadership with sociology because you simply learn about how people interact. If you can nail communications, and you know how to build teams, your career will take care of itself.”
While her career may have eventually done just that, it had quite humble beginnings. “My goal after college was to make enough to pay my part of rent with my sorority sisters and make my car payment. That was it. I worked in a bank as an assistant to the Manager for the team that ran the letters of credit. The Houston Chronicle had offered me a job, but it was 3rd shift, and I figured it would interfere with dating! I was with the bank for a couple of years, and then just moved to a larger bank as selling data processing services to community banks all over Texas. Your success was measured by your appointments, the sales, and how many vegetables you got from their home garden. Needless to say, these were very small time banks. I enjoyed it because of the people interaction, and I got my first real job there as they were introducing ATM networks, and I was put in charge of that network. I was able to create all the systems for the Southwest states. Eventually, I was running I.T., their debit and credit card systems, and was on the Board for the Pulse Network, and the BankCard Systems by ’83. That was a large bank, and that was a Senior Level job.”
As Keitha was growing up in the Houston area, a young Chuck Schofield was also navigating life in upstate New York. The son of a postal employee and a homemaker, Chuck lost both of his parents by the time he was 21. Also choosing Stephen F. Austin upon graduation, Chuck played baseball while attending college. He laughs, “If you’ve ever played ball in a New York winter, you’d know why I wanted to play down south in Texas!”
As graduation loomed, Chuck began to map out the beginnings of his career. “I didn’t have a darn clue as to what I was going to do after college. I had majored in Business Administration, and my plan was to go to the military, but they wouldn’t take me because of a heart issue. So I went back to Rochester and went to work for Chemical Bank. I was excited to be back home, and I worked as an auditor for 36 branch banks. That kept me on the road for quite a bit, and I enjoyed meeting all the new people, and it really gave me an opportunity to see the good and bad side of people.” Recruiters throughout the country took notice of Chuck’s skills, and he eventually was hired at a bank in Florida, and ultimately ended as the President of a bank in Houston.
“I was in graduate banking school when I met Keitha. We were at a community bank opening, and I saw her across the room. We went to a Virginia Slims Tennis Tournament at the Astrodome for our first date. We were just chit-chatting, and she told me she had attended SFA, and we talked about how we had been there at the same time, but never met! We talked about that a lot of the next 19 days, as we had 11 dates during that time.”
And at the end of those 19 days, Chuck and Keitha were engaged.
“I just thought he was so cute. He asked, ‘What is your mother going to say when she finds out you’re marrying a Yankee?’ I said ‘she could care less’. 20 years later we learned that she called my aunt and said ‘I can’t believe she’s marrying a Yankee!’” Chuck continues, “Everybody was pretty supportive. We both had jobs, our own places, and were old enough to know what we were doing. We were married a couple of months later. Both Keitha’s sister and brother had eloped. She had suggested that we do the same, but I insisted that her parents deserve at least one time to walk down the aisle, and it was just fabulous.”
The newlyweds eventually built a home in the Woodlands area of Houston and continued their careers. Keitha had moved positions to Continental Airlines as their Chief Technology Officer, and the duo took full advantage of the perks. She explains, “We traveled constantly. We would eat dinner on a flight to Paris, enjoy the day there, and then fly out Sunday morning. We took full advantage of every opportunity to get out and explore.” Chuck adds, “You know, when she got the offer to work for Continental, she was uncertain. I told her that I would never interfere with her career, but that I thought she should take the job. And it turned out to be a wonderful experience.”
Keitha was eventually courted by Farmer’s Insurance, based out of California. Initially refusing the opportunity, Keitha finally met with them, and was presented with an offer. Chuck says, “She got this offer from Farmer’s, and we agreed that we would meet in New York. We went to a restaurant on Saturday afternoon at 1pm, and we sat in the bar and had some champagne. I said ‘you know I would never interfere with your job, but it would be something to go to Los Angeles and we could do a 5 year window. If we don’t like it, we’ll move back. 16 years later, we moved back to Texas and we look back on that time as the greatest adventure.”
But before they moved back, Keitha and Chuck were busy. VERY busy. Keitha eventually ascended to the CEO of the Shared Services Organization for Zurich, the parent company for Famer’s, which included all of the support functions within the entire organization. Additionally, she was on a variety of Boards, and traveled relentlessly. Chuck adds, “Throughout all this, I’m quasi-retired. I’m doing consultant work in Houston, but my secondary job was with Farmer’s. I would interact with all the other agents and their spouses. Farmer’s, unlike many companies, typically involves much more than just one person working within an agency. It’s oftentimes a husband/wife team that starts an agency. The expectation was that the family would attend the conventions and gatherings, and it was part of the culture. It was also one of the reasons that we loved it so much.” Keitha says, “In order for me to do what I needed to do, I needed him. We did it all as a team, and we talk about my career as our career. He was an integral part of everything that we experienced.”
During their career in California, the Schofields visited Keitha’s’ sister in Boerne, and they were introduced to a new community called Cordillera Ranch. “My sister lived here, and we came here on a weekend to visit her. Her sister said ‘You’ve got to buy some land here!’ We came out to Cordillera Ranch one afternoon, and bought 5 acres on Greystone Circle that weekend. 2 years later we began building with Robert Thornton. We sold our house in California, and we knew that we would retire back to this area; we had always wanted to live in a smaller city that was less than an hour from a major airport, and this was the perfect sized town, the land was beautiful, and oddly enough, when I (Keitha) was working at the bank early on, I had this huge project and this business owner, the owner of the bank, and the auditor for that bank (30 years later) all live here in Cordillera. We instantly felt connected to the area.”
Shortly before Keitha and Chuck’s retirement in 2010, they began to look at new options within the gates of Cordillera Ranch. Chuck explains, “Our first home here was the first large home we had built. There were things that we felt were missing from that house, and we talked to Robert (Thornton) and asked if there were ways to add on, and he said you were best to just build. I went on a quest to find a lot, and we found this lot. We bought it, and between he and Dave Morris (architect), they had a sketch the next Monday. We saw Dave on Thursday, and on Saturday he called to tell us that he had already designed our home. He had the elevation completely done. It was a different type of house for he and Robert, and I think they both really got into it. We loved our home on Greystone, but having this one built in exactly the way we wanted for our long term needs has been fantastic.”
And their appreciation for the home extends beyond it to encompass all of Cordillera Ranch. Keitha explains, “We love Cordillera Ranch. I was worried about retiring and coming to a place that I didn’t know anybody. It’s a community, and that’s a word I’ve never used with any other place we’ve lived. People will say ‘It’s really good to meet you, and they mean it!’ and that just doesn’t happen in big cities. I started playing cards with ladies in a regular group, and I didn’t know a person, nor the game, and now I’m in a room with 25 women, and they always treat me like I belonged and they knew me. And that’s been so special.” Chuck, an avid golfer, agrees. “When we started out here in Cordillera, it was more of a rural group of individuals. The progressive change via the golf course has brought in new people and has caused the community to really grow up. We have so many friends in here. If you can’t find enough to do in Cordillera Ranch, then shame on you. I assure you that it’s not due to lack of options.”
Still traveling avidly, the Schofields continue to infuse themselves in the local community while seeking adventure abroad. While their passion for travel takes them around the world, returning to their home in Cordillera Ranch is most welcomed. Keitha finishes, “We thought we had traveled extensively until we met people out here that have been to places we can’t even spell. The people out here are fascinating, and it’s one of the more enjoyable aspects of being here. The people tend to define their lives by who they are now, and not by their careers. And that is just beautiful.”
Since arriving at Cordillera Ranch nearly three months ago, I’ve been struck by many things. From the natural beauty of the rolling terrain to the genuine kindness of Club members and staff, nothing feels forced.