William Richard Biers

October 29, 1938April 12, 2018

William R. Biers died suddenly on Thursday, April 12, 2018, of complications resulting from Alzheimer's disease.

He was born on October 29, 1938, in Brussels, Belgium, the son of Howard Biers and Constance (Herzog) Biers. Professor emeritus of classical archaeology at MU, he joined the faculty in 1968 as a member of the Department of Art History and Archaeology where he taught classes in Greek art and archaeology until his retirement in 2001. After retirement he continued to teach Ancient Technology, a course he created to interest undergraduate engineering students. He encouraged several generations of students to experience archaeology at first hand.

Bill enjoyed good food and good wine, good company and bad puns, was a devotee of opera and classical music, and loved to travel. He was a great raconteur. He loved Monty Python movies, Patrick O'Brian naval novels, and bad films about ancient Greece and Rome. He took pride in being a member of the Athenaeum in London and of The University Club in New York City. Bill earned a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and an AB from Brown University. He served as chair of the Department of Art History and Archaeology from 1973 to 1975 and from 1977 to 1980; he was director of graduate studies in 1989 and from 1993 to 1996. He served on many university committees including the campus library committee, of which he was chair from 1999 to 2001. A classical archaeologist, he excavated in Turkey and Israel, was director of excavations at ancient Phlius, Greece, and co-director of excavations at Mirobriga, Portugal. His area of specialty was the study of Greek perfume vases, and he pioneered the non-destructive extraction and investigation of organic residues with his colleague Klaus Gerhardt. His many publications included a highly successful textbook, The Archaeology of Greece: An Introduction; Mirobriga: Investigations of an Iron Age and Roman Site in Southern Portugal (with Jane C. Biers, Albert Leonard, Jr. and Kathleen W. Slane); Art, Artefacts and Chronology in Classical Archaeology; Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missouri 1 (with Lisa Benson); and numerous scholarly articles and book reviews. Before his appointment at MU he was employed at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Greece.

He is survived by his wife, Jane Biers, his daughter, Katherine Biers, his daughter-in-law, Katherine Lieber, and two grandsons.

A memorial service is scheduled on Saturday, August 25, from 3:00 to 5:00 pm at the Reynolds Alumni Center on the MU campus.


  • Memorial Service

    Saturday, August 25, 2018


William Richard Biers

have a memory or condolence to add?

Martha Alexander

April 28, 2018

I extend my condolences upon the death of Bill Biers. Professor Biers was a wonderful colleague who provided strong support of the MU Libraries. It was my privilege and honor to work with him when he served on the Library Committee. I valued his work as chairman of the group and greatly appreciated his leadership and friendship over the years. With deepest sympathy, Martha Alexander, Retired Director, MU Libraries

Peter Hanson

April 25, 2018

Bill was my classmate at St. Luke's School, a private day school in New Canaan CT. At St. Luke's Bill was diligent and scholarly. He came to St. Luke's in the third grade, one year after me, and in high school he was managing editor of our school newspaper The Sentinel. Bill played varsity football, and was on the Athletic Committee. He was editor of our yearbook, Caduceus. In June of 1957 twenty of us graduated and went on to make our way in the world. Bill obviously did well and did good, affecting many lives for the better. I'm proud that we were classmates.

Maryellen McVicker

April 20, 2018

Dr. Biers was my adviser when I became a Classical Archaeology major in 1969 at MU. He spent a lot of time helping this Boone County farm girl who had this crazy idea. Everybody else in her family were farmers and teachers, but I wanted to be an archaeologist. One day I happened to mention to him my tombstone photo collection of family ancestral tombstones which numbered in the hundreds at that point. He jumped up from his chair and excitedly said to me, "Come with me! I now know what to do with you! You need to major in American, not Classical Archaeology" and he raced down the office hallway at Jesse Hall where the department was then located. Finding Dr. Osmund Overby in his office, Dr. Biers proclaimed, "I have a great student for you. She will do great things" and then left. Well, I got my PhD. under Dr. Overby with a dissertation in cemeteries and the past 45 years I have been a professor who is known as a cemetery nut among my students. Dr. Biers was right. His perception of my skills changed my life and set me on a career path that has brought me great happiness in my work. I owe him a lot and I thank him for looking out for me.

Christine Wittmer

April 19, 2018

So sorry for your loss.
I was a student in the department in the mid 80s.
I enjoyed classes with Mr. (don't call me Doctor) Biers, and especially enjoyed conversations around the department.
Even though I am no longer in the field, I still value the lessons learned, chief among them question everything, always ask why.

Anne Weis

April 18, 2018

Dear Jane (and the Katherines),

It grieves me to think of your loss and of the loss of a person who was very important in my life and in the lives of so many others. Bill was endlessly patient with me as a naive student and I enjoyed so much seeing both of you at the Annual AIA meetings and hearing the latest news in the way that only he could tell it, giving the mundane kerfuffles of MU or the AIA an aura of international scandal and intrigue, all with a laugh and a twinkle of the eye that put it all into perspective. The world is less interesting without his sparkle.


Greg Olson

April 18, 2018

Dear Jane,

We are terribly sorry to learn of Bill's passing. He was a pillar of the Department and of the University for so long, and he has left a strong legacy at both. Our best to you at this difficult time.

Greg Olson and Chris Montgomery

Lisa Benson

April 17, 2018

Dear Jane,

I am so sorry to hear of Bill's passing. He was a source of inspiration to me and to so many other students and colleagues at Mizzou and at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. Having the opportunity to work with him as my advisor was a privilege. I fondly recall appointments with Bill - they were a lively blend of practical advice, scholarly discussion and stories from travels and excavations in Greece and Portugal. He was a lively storyteller with an infectuous and wry sense of humor. My thoughts are with you and your family.

My condolences.

Lisa Benson

Phoebe Sherman Sheftel

April 17, 2018

Dear Jane,

I am so sorry to hear of Bill' s passing. I treasure fond memories of our year together at the American School, before you two were married. Bill's wry humor was always a welcome addition to otherwise scholarly adventures. I have enjoyed re-connecting with you (and Phyllis and Alice) at AIA Annual Meetings over the years.

I hope that, surrounded by family and friends, you will be able to endure this loss.

Phoebe Sherman Sheftel

Jeff Wilcox

April 17, 2018

Dear Jane--- I am so sad to hear of Bill's passing. Please accept my sincere condolences. I will always have fond remembrances of Bill, having first come to know him in 1971 when, as an undergraduate at MU, I began taking classes with him in Greek archaeology. Over the years I came to know him better as a member of the staff of MU's Museum of Art and Archaeology. It was my pleasure to work with him on various projects, including the excavations in Mirobriga, Portugal, and the publication of the Museum of Art and Archaeology's ancient Greek vases in the fascicule of the Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. He was truly a gentleman and a scholar.

My thoughts are with you and your family. ---Jeff Wilcox

Michael Lane

April 16, 2018

Dear Jane,

I'm very sorry for your loss. Please accept my condolences.

I admit my recollections of Bill from my childhood in Columbia are vague, mainly the stuff of earnest background conversation during my parents' dinner parties, while Helen and I played. I enjoyed the good fortune as an adult to run into Bill at an annual AIA meeting within the last ten years. Although he was momentarily perplexed when I reintroduced myself, he quickly recognized me, and I was able to catch him up on my own archaeological endeavors. He seemed quite pleased.

Here's wishing you and Katherine all the best in this difficult time,

Michael Lane