Wild Bill's Coffeeshop

Wild Bill
Bill Sackter

Wild Bill's is hiring! We are currently seeking University of Iowa student candidates for two part-time student manager positions to oversee coffee shop operations in the 2019-2020 Academic Year. Details and applications are available using the links below:

Business Manager

Staff Manager

Wild Bill's Coffeeshop, 321 North Hall, is a service learning project in the School of Social Work at the University of Iowa. The coffeeshop is operated by adult persons with disabilities, thus providing

  • employment opportunities for persons with disabilities
  • practicum opportunities for University Students working with persons with disabilities
  • a service amenity for those who enjoy the food and hospitality of the coffeeshop


Mon., Tues., and Thurs., 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., during the academic year.

Closed Wed., Fri., Sat., Sun. and for University breaks and holidays. 

Bill Sackter Award

Each year on or around Bill Sackter's birthday (April 13), we honor his memory and impact through the Bill Sackter Award. The award is given to a student, alum and community member who demonstrate extensive and extraordinary commitment to the rights of and services for persons with disabilities. To nominate someone for this award, please send a letter outlining their accomplishments and explaining why they are deserving of this honor. The awards are presented during the annual Bill Sackter Day Celebration. Recipients receive an engraved plaque and their names are added to the Bill Sackter Award plaque in Wild Bill's Coffeeshop. The deadline for nomination letters is April 1st.


We accept about 30 volunteers each semester. To volunteer, you need to attend a one hour training. Orientation times are set up at the beginning of each semester. Other times as arranged.

2018 Training Manual

Disability Etiquette Guide    


Wild Bill's Coffeeshop's address is 321 North Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242. 

For more information, call  319-335-3750 or email jen-knights@uiowa.edu. Our brochure .


In his book The Unlikely Celebrity, Thomas Walz tells the story of Bill Sackter, a man who spent 44 years in a Minnesota mental institution and emerged to blossom into a most unlikely celebrity. Some years after his discharge from Fairbault State Hospital as a result of the movement to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill in the 1960's, Bill enjoyed a serendipitous encounter with a young college student and part-time musician, Barry Morrow.

When Morrow accepted a job at the School of Social Work at the University of Iowa, Bill followed him to Iowa City and was put in charge of a small coffee service. A cheerful man of great good will who was a harmonica virtuoso, Bill began to inspire affectionate legends, and his life as a celebrity began in earnest. He was named 'Iowa's Handicapped Person of the Year' in 1977. (Excerpted from the back cover of The Unlikely Celebrity)

The Coffeeshop was made famous when its first proprietor, Bill Sackter, was featured in a television movie and a sequel about his life. The first movie, which won Emmy awards for co-writer Barry Morrow and actor Mickey Rooney (as Bill), was called Bill (1981); the sequel was entitled Bill on His Own (1983). Years later, Morrow would win an Oscar for his script of Rain Man.

Since Bill's death in 1983, the Coffeeshop has expanded. It was remodeled in 2009 and now employs 12 persons with disabilities.

In 2008, Iowa Citian Lane Wyrick made a documentary about the real life of Bill Sackter, called A Friend Indeed—The Bill Sackter Story. The movie has won numerous awards. You can watch it for free on YouTube or at http://www.billsackter.com/Bills_Homepage.html

Special Events

We're always on the lookout for for performers—especially students, who would like to share their talents at Wild Bill's. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6-8 pm are available for live music, theatre, poetry, art projects and other special events. The coffeeshop is also available for use by student groups for meetings or conferences at no charge. It seats a maximum of 49 people.

The shop also has a kitchen with a coffeemaker, microwave, small convection/toaster oven, hot plate, dishes, etc. for use.

Current Coffeeshop Staff

Staff Manager-Kelsey Guyette

Business Manager-Jordyn Lair

  • Jonathan Dehn             Read a story written by Jonathan about growing up with Asperger's.
  • Katrina Johnson
  • Ben Lewis
  • Bart Smothers
  • Amy Sunstein
  • David Gaule
  • Neil Hubbard
  • Maurice Campbell
  • Gloria Gomez
  • Jonathan Reeck
  • Jonny Sullivan
  • Steve Oulman

Support the mission of the coffeeshop!

Help sustain Wild Bill's for years to come by making a donation through the UI Foundation. Donations of $200 or more allow you to create a commemorative tile that will be permanently attached to the coffeeshop wall. Click for more information