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University of Missouri

Professor Preserved Places

Osmund Overby, who helped preserve MU architecture, died June 1, 2014.

Osmund Overby

The late Osmund Overby, an architecture historian at MU, likened buildings to important documents. Photo by Rob Hill.

The University of Missouri is known not only for its teaching and research but also for its beautiful 1,262-acre campus. Many of its buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Osmund Overby, professor emeritus of art history and archaeology, who died June 1, 2014, was instrumental in helping to preserve Mizzou’s historic sense of place.

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

Overby was a member of the four-campus preservation committee that assessed the historic value of buildings, and he helped get many MU buildings and areas listed on the National Register. He helped restore Pickard Hall, the Conley House and the Hickman House.

Overby was on the advisory council that prepared the application to place Francis Quadrangle on the National Register. The nomination noted 18 buildings. On Dec. 18, 1973, the area bound by Sixth and Ninth streets and Conley Avenue and Elm Street officially became the Francis Quadrangle Historic District.

“Buildings are important historical documents,” Overby told the Missouri Alumnus magazine in 1986.

Overby was born Nov. 8, 1931, in Minneapolis. He received a doctorate in art history from Yale University in 1963. 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 (University of Missouri Press, 1999). 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 says.