Weaving Two Worlds Together – Sarah & Mark Philpy

By:
Jenny Jurica
Photography By:
David Teran
Personal photos courtesy of the Philpys

More than five thousand miles, and a complete world away from modern day Boerne, Sarah Findlay Philpy was born in 1961 in a “Kinderheim” (a children’s home) in Duete, West Germany. Sarah was adopted as an infant by an American family and spent her childhood living in Germany, Spain, California, Maryland, West Virginia and Ohio. She attended college in Tennessee before transferring to Texas A&M University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Recreation and Parks in 1984.

While a student at Texas A&M, Sarah noticed that there were no traditional cheerleaders at the university — only the Yell Leaders — the group of male students who are each elected annually to lead Aggie fans in “yells” at sporting events and other school activities. When Sarah expressed an interest in becoming a Yell Leader, a friend gently explained, “You can’t be a Yell Leader because you’re a girl, Sarah.”

“Well, that’s all I needed to hear,” remembered Sarah. 

So, in the spring of 1982, Sarah Findlay became the first female to ever be added to the ballot for Yell Leader at Texas A&M University. These days, women periodically stand as a candidate for Yell Leader, following in Sarah’s trailblazing steps, but never has a female been elected to this role…yet. 

Eight years prior to Sarah attending Texas A&M, another Aggie was blazing his own trails at the university. Mark Philpy headed to Texas A&M after graduating from high school in Midland, Texas in 1973. “I graduated in 1977 when the ratio of men to women was about eight to one, so social life was somewhat limited and we studied all the time!” said Mark. It worked. He graduated from A&M cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering, and he was a member of the engineering honor society, Tau Beta Pi, as well as the President of Pi Epsilon Tau, which is an honor society for Petroleum Engineering. Following graduation, Mark began his career in the Oil and Gas Exploration and Development realm, a career that continues to the present day.

Sarah married after college and began a family in Bryan, Texas. During this time, she worked as a special events programmer and completed graduate work to become a certified recreation therapist. She and her spouse also became house parents for a children’s home in Amarillo, drawn to a charity near to her heart, after her own birth in a similar environment back in West Germany. 

Following a divorce, the single mother of three moved herself and her children to Midland, Texas, where she earned a Special Education teaching certificate and went on to teach 3rd and 4th grade. It was also there in Midland that Sarah’s life changed forever when she met Mark Philpy, himself a divorced father of two. 

“Several of the teachers and myself would go to happy hour (which we jokingly called ‘Professional Development’) on Fridays,” said Sarah. 

One Friday in September, the group of teachers invited Mark to this “Professional Development” in order to introduce him to another single teacher in the group, but Mark and Sarah gravitated towards one another instead.

This chance encounter coincided with homecoming weekend in Midland. After Happy Hour that evening, Mark asked Sarah if she’d like to go to the high school football game. “We went to the game and had coffee after. He asked me out the next night and I fell in love with him over a two-and-a-half-hour dinner,” said Sarah. “I feel truly like Cinderella, because I was never going to get married again,” she added.

They married in September of 2004, and finished raising their kids in Midland. With Mark’s girls in college, Sarah supported their endeavors along with her kids’ various hobbies, while Mark acted as Founder and President of NorthStar Operating Company, an organization that he still leads today. 

With the promise of retirement approaching, one day Mark posed a question to Sarah:

“Where do you want to retire?”

Without hesitation, Sarah replied, “Germany.”

To which Mark quipped with one important caveat:

“No, it has to be within three hours of Texas A&M.” 

So, the Texas Hill Country it was! 

Shortly after this conversation, and after dropping their daughter off at T-Bar-M camp in New Braunfels one summer, Mark and Sarah decided to wander around the Texas Hill Country a bit to have a look around. They had talked about migrating to the area but wanted to make sure to pick a spot that had a nearby international airport, great medical facilities and close proximity to their beloved Texas A&M University. The couple knew that they had struck gold that summer day when they stumbled upon Cordillera Ranch. “When we topped the hill at the main entrance, we knew we had found the place,” said Mark. 

Over the next several years, they visited the area often and finally closed on a lot in the Bear’s Ridge neighborhood in 2015. “We love everything about our home and enjoy our wonderful ‘Bear’s Ridge’ neighbors,” said the couple, who wanted to capitalize on the exquisite views that their property affords. The home has amazing panoramic views of the Guadalupe and Cibolo Valleys, and Blanco’s “Twin Sisters” can even be seen from the home. “I wanted a home that was calm and serene, so we kept the interior color scheme neutral. We love that the people who visit, as well as our artwork, bring life and color to the inside of our home,” said Sarah, highlighting what is important to the Philpys.

Throughout their home are samples of some of Sarah’s intricate weaving work. Since age 12, Sarah has had a love for sewing and creating. She was introduced to spinning and weaving during her childhood in Columbus, Ohio and plans to make more time for her hobbies in the future. “My mother told me a long time ago, ‘You’re the happiest when you’re creating,’ and she was so right,” said Sarah, who, in addition to basket weaving and off-loom creations, has five floor looms that she has used to create tapestries, soft sculpture and other fiber arts. 

Since settling in Boerne, the Philpys have grown to love their community and are among the founding members of the new Bergheim Christian Fellowship, a church plant of Currey Creek Church, which has afforded them the chance to get involved and make an impact. “I’m inspired by solid, loyal and long-lasting friendships and also by the ability to help others,” said Mark. “Although BCF has just started rolling, big things are in store and we are very happy with our new environment and excited about the future,” he added.

Ever the loyal Aggies, Mark and Sarah also remain active members in organizations at Texas A&M. “The core values of the place keep me coming back,” shared Mark, “And Aggie football is always exciting!” Sarah’s passion lies in the Texas A&M Press Advancement Board, and through their sponsorship of the series “Texas Experience,” they have been instrumental in promoting the publication of 10 books to date.  

Though they are empty-nesters now, their combined five children visit often, and love to bring their own dogs with them. This dog-friendly residence is ruled by Cleo Petra, Mark and Sarah’s two-year-old Standard Poodle. “Every morning when Cleo gets up, she will sit by me and look ‘sad eyed’ until I agree to take her for a walk,” said Mark — who, ironically, was the family member least enthusiastic about the procurement of this “Covid puppy.” 

With ample time to play with Cleo, golf, garden, travel and attend the community’s Bible study, the Philpys have found their paradise at Cordillera Ranch. The natural beauty and the friendships that Cordillera Ranch has brought to the Philpy’s lives have solidified the couple’s decision to move to the area. 

“I love the casual and relaxed, yet refined attitude of the people and surroundings,” said Mark of Cordillera Ranch. And, with the area’s German influence, Sarah feels as though a part of her heritage has found a home as well, saying, “Boerne feels like home to me…the community, the German culture. I feel at peace and I feel at home here.”

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