One can be literate in many ways. For Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor Mark Ennes, financial literacy is his bread and butter, environmental literacy is his life’s work, and literature is his favored pastime.
Ennes reads four print newspapers every day.
“My belief is that the more information I have, the more I can use for my clients, the better I can serve them,” Ennes said. “There’s so much information out there. My job is to cut through the chaff to figure out where the wheat is.”
“My practice has changed over the years,” Ennes said. Where he used to help clients make sure they were putting enough money away for retirement, his clients are now retired and looking for help figuring how they can help their grandchildren go to college. “My clientele has matured as I have. I’ve taken on a younger partner to better serve the younger generation.”
Ennes’ father was a financial advisor for 40 years, and Ennes himself is on track to pass that record. Although Ennes wanted to go to law school, he graduated from Valparaiso University with degrees in English and Pre-Law and followed immediately in his father’s footsteps.
“My parents showed the importance of serving others, and that’s part of what I’m trying to do, too,” Ennes said. “We feel the need to give back with the abundance from our lives.”
Ennes is a charter member and two-time president of the Valpo Sunrise Kiwanis. He has assisted VU in various capacities throughout the years, including serving on the alumni board of directors. Ennes’ strong faith has led him to be one of Valparaiso University’s top fundraisers and serve as the president of Hillcrest Improvement Association.
Due to his hobbies like water skiing, snow skiing, scuba diving, and generally growing up around water, Ennes is quite keen on environmental issues.
“I’m a Pisces, which is where I think my passion for water comes from,” Ennes joked, “but I’ve always had an affinity for water, and growing up around it has made me realize how important it is.”
Ennes was instrumental in creating the first erosion control ordinance in the state.
“The number one pollutant of surface water is soil,” Ennes said. “When developers turn dirt over, the challenge is to keep it out of the waterways.”
Current member and past president of Lake Tippecanoe Property Owners Association, Ennes helped create an ecozone with the Department of Natural Resources to protect the Lake Tippecanoe shoreline.
“As boats get bigger, they create larger wakes which has a detrimental impact on the shoreline,” Ennes said. “As a founder of the Tippecanoe Watershed foundation, my focus has always been on issues of water quality and helping to maintain or improve it for current and future generations.”
“One of the biggest challenges of this century is being able to find clean water,” Ennes said. “There are over one billion people that lack access to water and others who find it scarce at least one month a year.”
“We’re all familiar with the water crisis in Flint Michigan,” Ennes emphasized, “but the rest of the world is challenged. We’re blessed living in the Midwest. We have too much water at times.”
Ennes cleverly ties his favorite pastimes together, traveling the world and reading literature appropriate to the location.
“When my wife and I went rafting in Alaska, I read Jack London,” Ennes said. “When we saw U2 in Stockholm, I read the Dragon Tattoo books.”
Although Ennes’ passions for literacy span the breadth of finance, environment, and the world we live in, his greatest passion is for his family.
“I came to Valpo to play football and go to law school, and I ended up doing neither,” Ennes said. “My wife and I have lived here for more than 40 years, though, because it’s a great community – especially for raising a family.”
Although his three daughters have all moved to Florida to raise their young families and pursue their passions, Mark and his wife of 38 years, Mary, stay in Valpo because they love experiencing all four seasons.
They can switch from water skiing to snow skiing as the weather invariably allows, and they appreciate living close enough to Chicago that they can “just get on a jet at O’Hare and go anywhere in the world.”