The William J. Roberts Lecture was established in 2007 by an endowment gift from Ann V. Roberts in honor of her husband and his dedication to the Archaeological Institute of American and his interest in archaeology.
William J. Roberts graduated from Brown University in 1942 where he was subsequently commissioned into the U.S. Navy. During his time in the Navy, he served on a PC as a navigator in the first wave of the Normandy Invasion on Utah Beach on D-Day in 1944 and later in the occupation of Germany. After his time with the Navy, Roberts worked for several investment firms in Chicago and gave lectures on corporate finance and investment at many universities across the US. Always interested in learning, Roberts attended summer sessions at Oxford University, Dartmouth Alumni College, and Cambridge University throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s. During a trip to Italy, he visited Etruscan ruins and became fascinated with archaeology. Later, he and his wife, Ann, traveled around the world so they could learn about the many ancient cultures throughout the world. Roberts was on the visiting committee of the Oriental Institute of Chicago from 1961 until his death in 2006. He was also a life member of the AIA and treasurer of the AIA's Chicago Society.
The Roberts Lecturer is chosen each year by the AIA Lecture Program Committee.