John Richard Roberts
John Richard Roberts
  • March 7, 1934 - May 31, 2017
  • Columbia, Missouri

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John R. Roberts


John R. Roberts (Jack), 83, of Columbia, Missouri, died May 31st at home, attended lovingly by his daughter Lisa Cochran. The funeral will be held at 5 p.m., Wednesday, June 7th at Newman Center with Father Rich Litzau officiating. Jack’s ashes will be interred in the parish following the Mass.

Jack was born March 7, 1934, in Brazil, Indiana, the son of Paul Roberts and Irene Roberts Hill. He graduated from Indiana State College in 1955 with a B.A. degree in English, Latin & French and went on to receive a PhD in English from the University of Illinois in 1962. Jack married Lorraine Bielski on August 5, 1955, and they were together for 62 years. They had six children; Stephanie Roberts, Mary Winslow (Charles), Claire Karl, Milissa Roberts (deceased 1973), Lisa Cochran (Steve), and John (Bo) Roberts, Jr. He is also survived by seven grandchildren, Sarah Moreau, Elise Karl, Milissa Karl, Eric Schrader, Brian Beckman, John Roberts III (Trey), and Marty Winslow.

Jack taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (4 years), the University of Detroit (2 years), and the University of Missouri-Columbia (from 1968 to his retirement in 2000). He served as chairman of the English Department from 1974-1980 and was honored as a faculty member by the Byler Distinguished Professor Award in 1979 and by the Catherine Paine Middlebush chair in 1982-85. Both his graduate and undergraduate students appreciated his wit and his scholarly excellence as a professor of Metaphysical Poets.

Jack became an international professor and scholar beginning in the 1980’s, having been elected to a Visiting Fellowship at St. Edmund’s College in Cambridge in 1984. He also served as the leader of the university’s London Program during this period. As a scholar, Jack established himself as the pre-eminent bibliographer of John Donne studies. In fact, he was a founding member and first president of the John Donne Society and won the John Donne Society award for distinguished publication in Donne Studies in 1993.

In addition to Jack’s distinguished scholarly career, he developed a travel seminar called “Rome - the biography of a city,” escorting for many years those as interested as he in everything Roman. As a devout Catholic, Jack wished to present the Catholic faith, its churches & its art in an inspiring way.

Finally, he was thankful for all the assistance he received from his friends dedicated to 12-step programs.

Memorial Contributions may be made to Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri, 2201 W Main St, Jefferson City, MO 65109