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University of Iowa News Release


March 25, 2009

UI School of Social Work celebrates Bill Sackter Day April 13

On Monday, April 13, the University of Iowa School of Social Work will celebrate the birthday of Bill Sackter with cake, ice cream, awards, speakers and a documentary about Sackter's life. Sackter worked in the School of Social Work from 1975 until his death in 1983. He served coffee, told stories, played his harmonica, and inspired everyone with his cheerful and optimistic outlook.

The celebration begins at 3 p.m. in Wild Bill's Coffeeshop, 320 North Hall. At 3:30 p.m. Tiffini Stevenson Earl, an attorney from the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, will speak about recent changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A free showing of the award-winning documentary, "A Friend Indeed: The Bill Sackter Story," begins at 6:30 p.m. in Room W-151 of the Pappajohn Business Building. Director Lane Wyrick will take questions about the making of the film.

Sackter was born in Minneapolis in 1913, the son of Russian Jewish immigrant parents. He entered Faribault State School in 1920 at age 7 because of his intellectual limitations and the fact that his mother couldn't care for him and two other children after the sudden death of his father. Sackter never saw his family again. He was released 44 years later during the de-institutionalization of mental health facilities and drifted aimlessly for 10 years before meeting Bev and Barry Morrow.

Barry Morrow petitioned for Sackter's guardianship and when offered a job in the School of Social Work, he took Sackter along. Tom Walz, director of the School of Social Work at the time, gave Bill the job of making coffee. That evolved into Wild Bill's Coffeeshop, which continues today, which employs people with disabilities and provides learning opportunities for volunteers in a coffee shop atmosphere.

Sackter won numerous awards and national recognition when two movies were made about his life, both written by Barry Morrow. Morrow went on to write the Oscar-winning movie "Rain Man." The new documentary, "A Friend Indeed," tells the true story of Sackter using actual film and video footage and photos of him, along with interviews with those closest to him. It has been voted the No. 1 Audience Favorite in three film festivals to date: Kansas International Film Festival, Hardacre Film Festival and the Omaha Film Festival.

For more information about the life of Bill Sackter visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Jefri Palermo, School of Social Work, 319-335-3750,; Lane Wyrick, director of "A Friend Indeed," 319-351-9379; Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-384-0070,