Responsibility to give back

Written by: 
Mark J. Merki ('91, '91 M.S.), CPA

Mark Merki, a CPA in Denton, has been volunteering his time once a week this school year with a student at Denton High School as part of the Mentor Denton program (Photo by Ahna Hubnik)Jason is a Denton High school student from Malaysia who lives with his aunt and uncle. His single mother lives in Malaysia. Jason wants to be an accountant.

Throughout my accounting career, people have helped me, so it only seemed natural that I should do the same for Jason. Through Mentor Denton, I've worked with him one hour a week for the last school year, covering life skills, accounting basics, the importance of grades and a year-long project about wanting to become an accountant.

I've explained to him that if he wants to be a CPA, he'll have a responsibility to give back. It's part of our profession.

I started at UNT in 1976 as a math major after graduating from Denton High. Not knowing what I really wanted to do, I put college on hold and went to work with my brother at his Budget Bugg shop in Denton, where I became acquainted with many professors.

Twelve years later, I re-enrolled at UNT because of a friend, mentor and CPA, Robert Hankins. He never suggested that I become a CPA but he said I needed to get back in school. I had visions of completing the hotel and restaurant management program, which required two years of accounting. While I was taking Financial Accounting, my professor, Barbara Merino said, "We need people like you in accounting."

There were many professors who encouraged me and my classmates along the way. John Price challenged us in tax research. Barney Coda made us think in our theory class. Terry Conover provided sound fundamental tools in intermediate accounting, and Ray Clay was passionate about ethics and professional responsibility. I was very confident that I had the tools to be successful in the profession, and I passed the CPA exam while in my final semester at UNT.

Once I was a CPA, many people helped me become a professional. The first lesson I learned was that you have a responsibility to give back and help others. Dr. Price became chair of the accounting department and asked me to serve on the advisory board, on which I still serve.

Former Denton Mayor Euline Brock ('74 Ph.D.), wife of Horace Brock, Professor Emeritus of accounting, asked me to serve on the city's Historic Landmark Commission when she was a council member. I knew nothing about historic structures, but I now see clearly her motives were to provide a training ground for me to learn the operations of boards and how to serve.

I went on to serve as a mentor to Ali Raza ('14, '14 M.S.), one of UNT's 2014 Great Global Citizen Award winners, through the Professional Leadership Program in the College of Business, and it was as a member of the board of the United Way of Denton that I learned of the Mentor Denton opportunity.

Jason has helped me practice patience and given me the ability to see long-term results. I've seen in him the desire to be a good person, but he didn't have a clear understanding about where he could acquire the skills to pursue his career goals. He has grown in the eight months I've met with him, showing me how even a short-term commitment can positively impact a person's life. I hope to work with him again this year and encourage him to attend UNT. Jason would be successful without anything from me. But I hope with my encouragement he can see how great he can be.

Mark J. Merki ('91, '91 M.S.), CPA, is president of Merki & Associates PC, a professional tax and accounting firm in Denton. He and his staff members volunteer for Mentor Denton, a joint effort with the goal of connecting 10,000 mentors with 10,000 at-risk Denton ISD students. The program, launched last fall, is a partnership among UNT, Communities in Schools in North Texas, Denton ISD, the United Way of Denton and the city of Denton. Learn how to become a mentor.