Elizabeth Mannen was 26 years old when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer. “It was a very difficult time for me,” she says. “I was single, living in Jackson Hole [Wyoming] and away from my family. All my friends were getting married and having babies when the doctors gave me six months to live. It was quite the juxtaposition for me. Thankfully, I found physicians who gave me great care and were willing to offer more positive odds.”
Twenty-six years later, Elizabeth Mannen calls herself a “thriver.” Thriving on her positive thinking and upbeat attitude, Mannen has survived three separate ovarian cancer battles and two against breast cancer, and is now in remission.
Never wanting others to feel sorry for her contributed to Mannen’s dedication to making a difference in the lives of others. “We all have cancer – your cancer might be taking care of a parent in hospice or living in a home where you don’t feel safe,” she says. “We all have crosses to bear; mine are no heavier than anyone else’s. The difference is that mine have a scarier name. In reality, cancer has given me a lot more than it has taken. It has given me a great perspective and courage and has taught me how to accept and not just give. It has taught me how to be patient and realize that I am not in charge. Cancer has given me my joie de vivre.”
Mannen was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and graduated from both Cornell University, where she studied economics and Japanese and was a member of the swim team, and Ithaca College, where she majored in music and communications and played the viola in its symphony orchestra.
She is fluent in four languages including Japanese, and she worked in Japan for five years after graduation. “It was during the time that many people felt Japan was going to take over the world; I wanted to be in the middle of it,” she says. “When I became frustrated with ageism, sexism and xenophobia there, I decided it was time to move to Jackson Hole and be a ski bum for a year. I have always loved the Wild West and its wide-open spaces.” In Jackson Hole, she started a business that exported western goods to Japan. All went well for a year, until she began feeling ill. “It took five different doctors to diagnose my ovarian cancer,” she says. “During the process of surgery, I realized that I needed to sell the business. But I also realized that I needed to do something besides watch my hair fall out. I looked for a part-time job and answered an ad for a file clerk job at A.G. Edwards [now Wells Fargo]. That’s what led me to my career, my husband, my children and the past 27 years in St. Louis.”
Today at 52, Mannen is managing director of investments at the Mannen Financial Group, a wealth-management group of Wells Fargo Advisors in Clayton. She is listed on Forbes’ list of America’s Top Women Wealth Advisors. Mannen manages $346 million in total assets.
“I love what I do,” she says. “I am passionate about making a difference in people’s everyday lives. I believe that what I do as a financial professional is a noble calling. I say that because I’m dealing with one of the things most people hold in high esteem in their lives. People treasure their family, friends, health and wealth. I help them with their wealth and sit in a privileged spot. There’s a great reverence in that, and I don’t take it lightly. When I go to work each day, it never feels like work. I am there to listen, understand and solve problems. I help people understand how decisions made today will affect your tomorrow.”
Aside from her day job, Mannen has many other passions. “Music is vitally important to me,” she says. “It’s an expression of who we are. Music is a healer and an inspiration; it’s my muse and is central to every part of my life.” Serving as a trustee of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, she believes music is the great equalizer. In St. Louis, she has played her viola with different chamber groups and quartets for various events. Mannen says she likes “anything live” and has season tickets to jazz, country, opera, rock, indie and alternative music events. “Any kind of live expression makes my soul sing.”
To that end, it’s not surprising that Mannen was selected two years ago to be a member of the steering committee and to serve as honorary chair for Sing for Siteman, an annual musical evening each June that raises funds to benefit the Siteman Cancer Center. “It’s such an impressive event because of the passion of the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis singers,” she says. “Their talent is incredible, and the venue is outstanding. I love the fact that all monies raised stay in St. Louis for research.”
Passionate about the causes she serves, Mannen was honored as a St. Louis Woman of Achievement in May. “Through my challenges in life, volunteering has always helped me get through difficulties,” she says. “My motto is ‘When I feel low, I go.’ I enjoy going and being of service to others.” During her years at Wells Fargo, she has been an active participant in its corporate philanthropy efforts. She helped lead the charge for the United Way campaign six times and provided leadership for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure for the five years that Wells Fargo was the presenting sponsor. She was also instrumental in starting a mentoring program in the Saint Louis Public Schools for Wells Fargo employees.
Her charitable and civic boards and foundations have included the Missouri Baptist Hospital Foundation, Marian School for Girls, Lydia’s House, Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri, St. Louis Ovarian Cancer Awareness and the Berges Family Foundation, which she helped create in 2013 and for which she’s the managing trustee. She’s also a proud leadership giver for many nonprofits. She sees herself as a connector, bringing people, resources or dollars to each organization she serves.
Her hobbies include bird hunting, fly-fishing, running, riding bikes and horses, golfing and traveling internationally. She also speaks to new graduating classes about her unique life challenges and accomplishments, and she has been read or heard nationally in Barron’s magazine, The Wall Street Journal, NPR and CNBC.
“If you get up every day and believe it will be a better day, you will get where you want to go,” Mannen says. “If you have people who believe in you, it certainly helps your future. I was a file clerk, and my superiors recognized that I had potential and stewarded me along the way. Today, I have more wonderful mentors in St. Louis. I have always had the great fortune to be surrounded by quality individuals in both my work and personal environment and am proud to give back to others. Whether at work, at home or as a volunteer, I want to make a difference in other people’s lives. That’s what keeps me motivated.”