Alum Mike Mers came to Boise State from Marysville, Washington, to play football, but a back injury his freshman year changed his plans. Despite that setback, his ties to the university only strengthened.
Mers, founder of Aspen Capital Management in Boise, a fee-only wealth management firm that works with families and nonprofit organizations, is part of a strong Bronco family. He is a Boise State University Foundation board member, past chairman and current member of the College of Business and Economics advisory board, and a past board member of the Bronco Athletic Association. In 2022, the university named him a Distinguished Alum.
He met his wife Lori Mers – a 1990 alum, past board member of the athletic association and current member of the Student Philanthropy Board Grant Program advisory panel – when they were students. Their daughter Stacia attends Boise State. Their son Bryce, studying at West Point, attended the university for a year before his appointment.
Alum Walt Johnson (BA, management with a minor in technical writing, 1992) has known Mers since their freshman year. Johnson works at Micron as the global director of end-user productivity.
“As freshmen we just hit it off. We were both business majors. We were in each others’ weddings. And regardless of where our careers took us, we’ve always maintained that friendship,” Johnson said, adding that the two share a deep fervor for college football. “Mike,” he added, “bleeds orange and blue. A very vibrant orange and blue, by the way.”
Johnson praised his friend for “raising fine children” and meshing the skills of leadership and listening in his profession where he’s “part psychologist, part guide” for his clients.
“If you are fortunate enough to call Mike a friend, you have a lifelong friend,” Johnson said.
Early ambitions, caring faculty
Mers said that from the first day of college, he knew he wanted to study business.
“The idea of how you could invest money and grow money was always something that was interesting to me. And here I am, 35 years later, still interested,” he said.
As he delved into his business studies, Mers became a stronger and more motivated student. He became busier, too, working 20 hours a week as an intern at Hewlett-Packard during his junior and senior years. Earl Naumann, a now-retired professor, recognized Mers’ talent and told him to apply for an International Rotary Scholarship – full tuition towards an MBA degree. After leaving Boise State with a business degree in 1992, Mers earned an MBA, thanks to the scholarship, at the University of Bristol in England.
“I was incredibly blessed because of the faculty at Boise State who took an interest in their students,” Mers said.
After graduate school, Mers worked for firms in Portland, Oregon, and in New York City before moving home to the West. He founded Aspen Capital in 2002. Lori Mers also works at the firm.
“We’ve been doing this for 20 years and we get to help people live a better life by getting their finances and investments organized and keeping them focused over the long term,” Mers said.
Mers said that “plugging in” to Boise State was natural.
“Lori and I were among the first in our families to attend college,” he said. “And being involved with our alma mater has been so rewarding – seeing the quality of Boise State programs, research, faculty and students. I would encourage younger alumni to do the same.”
Their college experiences inspired the Mers family to create several scholarships in the College of Business and Economics.
Investing in Broncos
Aspen Capital Management recently created a paid internship for upper-division finance majors that gives them exposure to a range of professional experiences and training to become fiduciary advisors – or fee-only advisors who make investment decisions based on a client’s best interest. The field requires building long-term relationships with clients. Becoming a fiduciary advisor can be a challenge for new graduates who, for the most part, don’t yet have a peer group with significant assets to manage, said Associate Professor Garrett McBrayer.
“Mike has made the choice to invest in developing Boise State students, incurring the cost of having an employee who may not have the network or experience yet, helping them build those attributes and sending them off into this field successfully,” McBrayer said.
By Anna Webb
Photo provided by Mers family