Longtime adviser turns 103 – send birthday greetings

TO: Journalism advisers

Today, I have a request.

My mentor and dear friend, Bill Spahr, will turn 103 years young on Sunday, March 31.

You may remember me making this request a few years ago when Bill turned 99. This birthday, this month, for this man is momentous…

Although you do not personally know Bill, I am hoping that this gracious community of educators might take a moment and reach out to a former adviser, and journalism mentor, by sending a card and wishing Bill, Happy Birthday.

Bill and I share a rich history as the advisers to all of the publications at Great Falls High School in Great Falls. Bill advised newspaper, yearbook and broadcast from 1958-1981. I advised newspaper, yearbook, web and social media. We both taught photography. Our first love always was the newspaper, the Iniwa. It had published continuously for 117 years until 2015, when the administration eliminated the journalism courses; however, the astonishing fact is that Bill and I were the sole advisers for 54 of those 117 years. The Journalism Department at Great Falls High School recorded and told the story of so many students and educators throughout its time. Bill still asks every time I see him, “Have they brought the newspaper back, yet?” I’m sorry to say, “No…” which leads to a long discussion of the state of journalism today.

Bill’s career began as a professional broadcaster. He is a graduate from the journalism school at the University of Montana. However, given the opportunity to teach scholastic journalism, Bill found his calling and his heart always remained with the students whose lives were entwined by his immense impact on their education. Bill’s extraordinary ability to draw them into the world of journalism and other professional careers, continues  as he has encouraged them throughout their lives. His influence, just like Bill, has been legendary.

I have always been fortunate to have such a remarkable friendship with Bill. He continues to inspire me and all of the people with whom he interacts. A conversation with Bill leads people to know about his interest in world affairs, government, history, culture, literacy, language, science. Bill loves books and films. He is an extrovert with an incredible sense of humor who loves spending time with people and having in-depth conversations. His knowledge and wisdom never cease to amaze his friends and family.

Bill’s mentorship gave me the direction and passion to work to develop and keep the best scholastic journalism program possible for kids. He started us on this road of discovery and life-long search for truth and student voice.

 If you could help me make this special day even better for this remarkable educator, please send birthday cards and wishes to me. I will surprise Bill with a birthday party. He has been a world traveler. He will be thrilled to be introduced to so many other educators around the country.

I appreciate all you do and your thoughtfulness in reaching out to a former adviser and mentor and keeping him a part of our astounding professional community.



Linda Ballew, Montana State Director

2212 4th St. S.

Great Falls, MT  59405


The local ABC news channel made Bill their “Montana Treasure” feature last month:  https://www.abcfoxmontana.com/montana-treasure–year-old-shares-his-life-journey/video_42a541fc-2e6b-11e9-bb12-bbf255129bb2.html