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June 26, 2014 Volume 35, No. 32

Professor emeritus who helped preserve MU architecture dies

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Osmund Overby, a professor emeritus of art history and archaeology who died June 1, is shown in 2006 inside the Hickman House. Photo by Rob Hill.

Osmund Overby was on the advisory council that brought about the Francis Quadrangle Historic District

The University of Missouri is known for its teaching and wide-ranging research. But let’s not forget its sense of place. MU is a beautiful, well-designed 1,262-acre campus. Many of its buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Osmund Overby, a professor emeritus of art history and archaeology who died June 1 from complications of Parkinson’s disease, was instrumental in helping to preserve the historic look of the campus. 

“It is not an exaggeration to say that the university looks the way it does today because Ozzie collaborated with others to preserve its rich historical legacy,” said Kristin Schwain, MU associate professor of American art. 

Overby, who was 82, was a member of the four-campus preservation committee that assessed the historic value of buildings, and he helped get many MU campus buildings and areas listed on the National Register. Restoration of Pickard Hall, the Conley House and the Hickman House are just a few in which he was involved.

Besides being a champion of historic structures, Overby was on the advisory council that prepared the application to place Francis Quadrangle on the National Register. On Dec. 12, 1973, the area bound by Sixth and Ninth streets and Conley Avenue and Elm Street officially became the Francis Quadrangle Historic District, which includes 18 buildings. 

“Buildings are important historical documents,” Overby told Missouri Alumnus magazine in 1986.

Osmund “Ozzie” Overby was born Nov. 8, 1931, in Minneapolis. In 1963, he received his doctorate in art history from Yale University. A year later, he joined the faculty of MU’s Department of Art History and Archaeology. He retired in 1998.

Overby wrote many books on American architecture, including William Adair Bernoudy, Architect: Bringing the Legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright to St. Louis. In 2003, the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation established the Overby Award, given annually to someone who published an exceptional work on state architecture. 

“His commitment to students, the state and the profession epitomizes the mission of land-grant universities and the public role scholars can play in shaping the world we live in,” Schwain said.

Overby was married to Barbara for 60 years. They had three children: Paul, Katherine and Charlotte. 

On the Society of Architectural Historians website, Paul Overby said his father was known for his kindness, intellect, humor, generosity and humility.

“He will be sorely missed.”