Mark Whitacre, Inspiration for the ‘Informant!’, and Hope Unlimited President David Nowell to Speak at Mercer


MACON — On Wednesday, Dec. 2, Dr. Mark Whitacre, the subject of the recent film “The Informant!”, and Dr. David Nowell, president of Hope Unlimited for Children, a child rescue organization in Brazil, will speak to students at Mercer University about failure, forgiveness and second chances. The two will address Mercer’s 10 a.m. university worship service in Newton Chapel.

Whitacre is no stranger to second chances, having survived three years working undercover with the FBI, followed by a nine-year federal prison sentence. “Going to prison was rock bottom for me, and hitting rock bottom is a very scary thing, but once you’ve hit rock bottom it’s also kind of freeing,” Whitacre says “I was able to ask forgiveness from my family and from God. I’d say that’s when my life really began.” 

Shortly after Whitacre’s release from prison, Warner Brothers bought the rights to make his story into a major motion picture starring Matt Damon in a dark comedy that relives the most painful and difficult years of Whitacre’s life. Some might consider that to be the bottom of the barrel, but the real Mark Whitacre has taken the proverbial lemon and made lemonade. “At that point I figured if someone wanted to make a movie about my life and the mistakes I’ve made, my only hope was that others would see what happened and learn from it,”he says 

During the 40-minute chapel program, Nowell and Whitacre will relive Whitacre’s story focusing on the mistakes he made as a young corporate executive, life lessons learned, his encounter with faith in prison and the passions and causes that move him today, one of those being Whitacre’s newfound passion to give street children in Brazil a second chance.

“If a guy like me who made terrible mistakes can have a second chance at life, then I’d say there is not a single kid living on the streets of Brazil who doesn’t deserve it a hundred times more than I do,” Whitacre said.

Nowell’s organization, Hope Unlimited for Children exists to rescue and rehabilitate Brazilian street children at their award-winning residential facility near the city of Campinas, Brazil. It is estimated that between three and five million children in Brazil are currently living on the streets.

To learn more about Whitacre, visit

About Hope Unlimited for Children
Founded in 1991 by the Rev. Jack Smith, his son Philip Smith and former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services David Swoap, Hope Unlimited takes in homeless children considered to be at “mortal risk” by the Brazilian courts. Since its founding, Hope Unlimited has seen more than 1,000 graduates. More than 78 percent of Hope’s graduates are employed, in stable living situations and active in a local church. Currently, Hope Unlimited is caring for more than 1,200 children in four locations, including a newly started preschool. To learn more about Hope Unlimited’s work visit

About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,000 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at three regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit
— 30 —