John and Penelope Biggs met while pursuing undergraduate majors in the Greek and Roman Classics at Harvard. Both later earned PhDs (in Economics and Comparative Literature, respectively) from Washington University in St. Louis. John Biggs went on to make his career in finance, but kept his interest in the field, and has served as a trustee of the Archaeological Institute of America. He is now Chairman and CEO of TIAA-CREF. Penelope Parkman Biggs has taught Classical language and literature in various forms.
While preference is for a topic on classical archaeology, the lecture is not restricted. The Biggs Lecturer speaks at one local society annually.
The Biggs Lecturer is selected each year by the AIA Lecture Program Committee.