Wherever You Go I Will Follow

Nick and Mary Denise Verses both work from home as executives with IBM, the same company they have both worked for their entire careers. Their career paths, while different, have kept them both hand in hand for over 28 years, and have taken them all the way around the world and ultimately to Cordillera Ranch.

Mary Denise begins, “I almost went to law school. I was attending Boston College as a Marketing major with a minor in Finance, and the head of Boston College Law School told me I had talent in law and that I should look into it. But IBM offered me a job upon graduation, and I took it because it had an immediate return.”

Nick, on the other hand, relentlessly pursued IBM. “My plan coming out of high school was just to get to college, and I was able to attend Villanova. I got into the business school and while I was taking classes, I became fascinated with IBM. I pursued them relentlessly. I interviewed with them multiple times, and they turned me down multiple times. I even found myself working as a security guard while interviewing. One day I got two letters from IBM: one told me ‘Thanks but no thanks’ and one said ‘Please come back for a 2nd interview.’ Shortly thereafter, I was hard at work at IBM.”

And while they were both at IBM, it didn’t take long for Mary Denise to catch Nick’s eye. “It was a summer day, and we had done a sales call together and I asked Mary if she wanted to go for ice cream. We were sitting there just enjoying the sunshine, and she laughed at one of my jokes. I thought to myself, ‘Boy Nick, you’re pretty funny’. However, I then looked down and noticed that my ice cream cone was broken and was dripping all over me, and that’s what she was laughing at. It was an inauspicious start, but we really liked one another.” Mary Denise adds, “He was so meticulous, and it was just funny to watch him with the ice cream dripping everywhere. I was attracted to Nick from the beginning. He was the young hip guy in the office. I think the first few months I called him ‘Rick’ and he never corrected me. Anybody who knows him knows that he’s full of charm, and he was always so kind and helpful to everyone in our group. Guys my friends were dating were never like that, but Nick was just so giving.”

So within a few months of them both starting at IBM, their courtship began. However, IBM made a point of it to always remind their employees to not date within the company, so Mary Denise and Nick initially tried to keep their relationship quiet. “We thought nobody knew, but I suppose it was quite obvious,” Nick states. “We tried to keep it a secret for over a year. We would go separately to functions, and people began picking on me because I never had a date! After a year or so, we let everyone in on our secret. And as soon as IBM found out about it, they separated us.”

Mary Denise had a commercial sales territory in New York City, and Nick was moved into educational sales. And there they enjoyed successful sales careers, all the while still dating. Nick adds, “Six years we dated. And we both knew that we had a cultural difference. She’s Irish Catholic and I’m Greek Orthodox. It wasn’t that our parents didn’t like the other one, the question was whether they thought we were right for each other. My family was cool with us dating, and they really liked Mary Denise, but they did want me to marry a Greek.”

And as they both sensed some amount of pressure from their families, change entered their lives. Mary Denise explains, “I got a promotion to move to Atlanta. I said to Nick, ‘I’m moving to Atlanta and this is probably the right time for us to break up. I guess we’ll see where this goes.” Nick continues, “I’m left in New York, and 2 months after Mary Denise left a new job came my way that just so happened to be based in Atlanta. It took us a while, but we finally began to realize that while our families were important, what we felt between us is the most important thing. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, but also the distance from our families was good. It got us out and we were on our own, and created our own social circles and were really able to grow as a couple.”

Mary Denise and Nick grew so much as a couple that Nick decided it was time for them to marry. “I ended up calling her sister, and I planned this great event to propose to her. I talked to her Mom and she was excited, and we were going to go to the lighthouse at Marblehead in Massachusetts. We were going to go on a picnic and we had some wine, and there’s this great spot overlooking the harbor where the views are beautiful and I had it all planned out. I had rented a plane with a banner that said “MD – will you marry me?” and was so very, very nervous. I heard the prop plane, and Mary was talking to me, and I’m hoping she’ll notice this banner. I had the ring in my hand, kind of hidden beside my leg, and she looked at the plane and just said ‘Oh, that’s so sweet.’ And then she kept drinking her wine and talking with me. And each time the plane circled she glanced up at it, and I think it was the third or fourth time around that she finally exclaimed ‘Oh my gosh, that’s for me!’ And luckily, she accepted.”

Shortly after their marriage, the Verses welcomed Jason in 1988, and then Liam came along in 1999. As for why the long break between siblings, Mary Denise explains, “My mom had 6 kids, and her last at 40. I had Liam at 43. She always told me that he will always keep you young. They have been a real blessing to us. Jason is fulfilling his dream by living and working in New York City as a management consultant and Liam is thriving in Texas attending BMSS.”

And as their children grew, so did their careers. Nick explains, “We were opening some retail stores, and Mary’s job was to retrofit these stores. I was a field industry representative, which means I would come in and help close deals with educational software, and so this meant that we were both on the road a lot.” And while they traveled, they also grew as professionals. As is sure to be a rarity, IBM grew with them and worked to ensure that their careers took them in similar directions. Mary Denise continues, “Nick and I were able to keep parallel careers. When one of us was promoted, they would work to find something for the other to assist with the transition. IBM would always make an effort to help both of us.  We were blessed that there was always something available for us when we moved.”

In 1993, IBM promoted Nick to handle sales of the personal computer business for Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and some others where they would be based in Singapore. Obviously a large move, the Verses were up for it. Nick begins, “Singapore is quite safe, and it was a great adventure. One of the challenge was that Jason was trying to get acclimated. It took him about six months or so to get it together as it was difficult for him to leave family and friends and live on the other side of the world, and I was up for the decision to stay or go. I asked Jason, and he said ‘let’s go back’. On our 3rd year we had to choose and I said it’s time to for us to go back, and he said ‘No way’. He ended up staying through the end of the school year.” Mary Denise continues, “It was a fabulous adventure, and it was a huge move. The cultural differences, the lack of extended family, and then moving him back was tough. But it was well worth the challenges, as it was a wonderful experience.”

Shortly after their return, Mary Denise sought change, and wanted to get out from under the umbrella of IBM. She explains, “I left IBM in 2000. I wanted to go out on my own and do something else. I had been with them for 18 years, and I had skills that I wanted to use. I started a company called MedCalm, which is still in operation today. We went into hospitals and sold relaxation programs that helped patients relax while going through stressful treatments such as chemo or dialysis. We were really embraced by the medical community and it was quite successful. I went from there and did some consulting for the Rocky Boy Foundation, which was a Native American organization. We were raising funds to bring healthcare to the Chippewa tribe in Montana. I wanted to help others, and it was a great opportunity. Native Americans are a disenfranchised people in our country and they have great challenges. This was a way to help bring focus that they didn’t have access to healthcare.”

During this time, and as their careers and family continued to mature, the Verses began to look toward retirement. Having looked in the Carolinas as well as some other spots along the East Coast, they decided that during a business trip in Austin they would branch out and look around. Nick says, “We looked at Alamo Heights and several other areas around San Antonio, and then Mary Denise stumbled upon Cordillera Ranch online. We mentioned to our realtor that we might like to head out to see it, and he said ‘Oh my goodness, that is way too far? I’ve never even heard of it! Why would you want to live out there?’ But he ended up taking us and he was just as impressed as we were. This was in 2005.”

While the Verses fell in love quickly with Cordillera Ranch, they hadn’t seen any available houses yet that they wanted. So they were patient and checked the Cordillera Ranch website, and eventually saw a spec house that was under construction by Damon Christofilis. Mary Denise called him, told him they would be arriving in two weeks from New York, and they asked him to not sell the house for two weeks until they could look at it. He agreed, and the Verses learned later that Damon turned down two firm offers during that two week period. Mary Denise continues, “He kept his word to us and refused the offers. We ended up loving the house, loved Damon, and we just hit it off. He has such great integrity and such great passion. The people here with all these different backgrounds are amazing! They each have such powerful stories and values and we just love it so much. Damon and his wife Sherry helped make the transition from New York to Texas seamless, as they even introduced us to other families that he had built homes for, and it was a great way to get immersed in the community. It’s a Texas thing I suppose; people just go out of their way to do stuff like that.”

Mary Denise eventually returned to IBM to work alongside Nick again, and they were both allowed to work from home. Nick is now the Vice President for Channel Management and Strategy for North America and Mary Denise is the Channel Account Manager for the IBM Software Group, and both proclaim to now have the most beautiful office space in the world. So from Nick’s office space, which includes the front porch, and Mary Denise’s, which overlooks the side garden, the Verses continue to enjoy life and plan for their future together. Mary Denise sums it up with, “The Cordillera Ranch move was the first move we ever did that was not an IBM move. That says a lot. This move was different for us; we could go anywhere in the world, and we chose Cordillera. For us to have chosen this place and started over from scratch socially just says volumes about it, and about how happy we are here.” Nick adds, “Every year we write down our goals and objectives for that year, and we can look back on those goals and dreams that we both wrote out and realize that they have come true for us. And that’s a beautiful thing.”

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