Besides each other, there’s nothing Mary and Bob Verti love more than the members of the University of Colorado’s Alpha Chi Omega sorority.
The 62-year-old retirees are house parents at the sorority’s Boulder home — a 37-bedroom Victorian on University Hill.
The couple lives in the 50-year-old house on the corner of 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue with 70 sorority girls.
“Our official job is running the physical house but we spend most of our time encouraging and supporting the girls,” said Bob Verti, a retired elementary school teacher from Fort Collins.
After more than four years as the chapter’s house parents, the Vertis said they consider themselves lucky to have hundreds of wonderful children, mostly daughters.
“We really are a family here, they’re very much our daughters,” Bob Verti said.
Many national sororities require their local chapters to have house moms — women who live in the sorority house and manage the facility and staff — said Mary Verti. After nearly 10 years as a single house mom, Mary Verti said she loves being part of the only house parents team in Boulder.
“There are a few around the country but not many,” Mary Verti said. “It’s rare to have house parents but I think these girls consider themselves lucky to have me and Bob.”
Devon Yamauchi, CU senior and recruitment chair for Alpha Chi Omega, said she was shocked to hear there would be a man living in the sorority house with her but after two years living with the Vertis, she can’t imagine it any other way.
“He’s always here when we come home to ask how our test was or how we’re doing or to help when we’re stressed,” Yamauchi said. “He’s always watching out for us and helping us whenever he can.”
Yamauchi said recruits are introduced to Bob Verti during rush week and again during move-in to help absorb the shock that can come with a male living with a house full of 20-something girls.
“Once the girls meet him they are okay with it because he’s so warm and welcoming,” Yamauchi said.
Mary was the house mom at Alpha Chi Omega when she met Bob online through eharmony.com. After a few dates it was time to introduce Bob to her adopted family — a house full of college girls.
“One of the girls sat on the couch all day and watched him,” Mary Verti said. “She just sat and observed him and at the end of the day she came to me and said ‘we’ve decided he can stay.'”
Soon after, the couple was married in the place they now call home.
“We had the ceremony right here in front of the fireplace,” Mary Verti said as she pointed to the formal living room just left of the home’s main entrance. “We had some of the girls here and our families and it was just perfect.”
The ceremony may have been “magical,” but living in a house with 70 girls in a neighborhood surrounded by Greek houses has its flaws, Mary Verti said.
Home sweet home
The couple lives in a one-bedroom apartment on the first floor of the house. While they rarely have concerns about privacy or noise from inside the house, they occasionally find themselves awakened early in the morning by partying Greeks outside their first-floor window.
“It can get noisy sometimes, like on Halloween night for instance,” Mary Verti said. “There was a frat guy dressed as a crossing guard and he stood right outside our window and practiced blowing that whistle at 2 o’clock in the morning.”
“Despite the occasional noise, we really do feel comfortable here and it’s become home for us,” Bob Verti said.
“It’s just part of the job,” Mary Verti said. “It’s no different then taking care of your own house. It can’t always wait until morning.”
Susan Anderson, 65, house mom for CU’s Kappa Kappa Gamma house, said living with dozens of college girls may not seem like a perfect situation, living in a mansion does have its perks.
“I would never be able to afford to live in a place like this without this job,” Anderson said of the 40-bedroom house on University Hill. “It’s gorgeous and I get to decorate and help renovate and it has really become like my home.”
During the summer when the members are not living in the house, Anderson said she turns the large gourmet kitchen into a more personalized french bistro where she cooks and entertains friends, including the other house moms.
“I love to cook and I would never have this kind of kitchen if I didn’t live here,” Anderson said.
Anderson has been a house mom for the last 14 years and at Kappa Kappa Gamma since 2005 but her experience reaches beyond her role as a house mom.
Anderson is a mother of three, so running a household comes naturally to the divorcée.
“I was looking for a fresh start and something that would keep me busy and be fun after I got divorced,” Anderson said. “It’s a great job for single women not only because it comes with housing but there’s never a dull moment.”
Sorority moms — or parents in the Vertis’ case — are charged with running a facility that functions similarly to a hotel, Anderson said. Besides paying the bills, managing a staff and acting as the project manager for renovations, Anderson said most of her time is spent picking up after the 80 girls who live in the house.
“As sorority moms we do a lot but most of our time is spent turning off lights and picking up dishes,” Anderson said. “You really have to love the girls or picking up after them could get really old.”
CU junior Emily Dreiling, Kappa Kappa Gamma president, said “Suze” is not the only one who sees herself as a mother figure for the girls.
“She’s really our home away from home mom,” Dreiling said. “I go to Suze for a lot of things like helping coordinate events or sometimes for personal stuff too.”
Dreiling said it might seem strange to some but most of the members find it comforting to have Anderson there.
“She’s not controlling or bossy, she’s just here to help and we know that,” Dreiling said. “We still have a lot of freedom but she’s there if we need her. It’s a good compromise.”
Like a typical stay-at-home mom, Anderson and the other sorority moms are on the clock 24/7. Most of them get two days off per month where they can choose to spend the night outside of the sorority house, Anderson said.
The Vertis said every time they try to leave for a night they get phone calls from maintenance people or the sorority members complaining of a problem with the house.
“We had to come back from a wedding in Nebraska once because the girls called and said they smelled gas,” Mary Verti said. “It’s always something with this old house.”