When “Pete” Guest was born in New York on December 3, 1940 he was given the name Avery Mason Guest. In the world of demography and the Population Association of America, he is known as “Pete.” Pete’s formative years were spent in Texas, which makes his selection of Oberlin College for undergraduate study quite interesting, if not heretical.
Pete was not always a demographer/sociologist. His first career was as a journalist in Ohio, serving as the “Suburban Reporter” for the Akron Beacon Journal. This was after receiving his M.S. degree in Journalism from Columbia University in 1964. Pete’s experience in journalism was an excellent preparation for his subsequent academic career. He always knew how to get the bottom of a story and the importance of writing clearly and quickly. Pete also had the reporter’s ability to type faster with his two index fingers than most trained typists could manage with all ten digits. Before electric typewriters or personal computers replaced the manual Olivettis and Underwoods, the sounds of Pete’s rapid work on a manuscript would reverberate through the corridors of the Center for Studies in Demography & Ecology at the University of Washington.
The writing skills that Pete gained as a journalist would serve him well throughout his career. However, Pete’s prose was destined for academic social science journals and not the newspaper. He entered the graduate program in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin in 1966 and completed his Ph.D. in 1970. While in graduate school, Pete collaborated with a number of other well-known demographer/sociologists (including Eileen Crimmins, Gretchen Condran, David Brown, and Charlie Hirschman) to produce Concerned Demography, the population journal with a conscience.
After completing his Ph.D., Pete moved to Dartmouth College where he served as assistant professor of sociology from 1970 to 1972. In 1972 Pete made the cross-country trek to Seattle and the University of Washington, where he remained until his retirement in 2003 and where he is currently Emeritus Professor of Sociology.
Pete published prolifically throughout his career, with many of his articles appearing in the very best sociology and demography journals. He is probably best known for his research on urban ecology, including a string of seminal papers on population distribution and the structure of cities and suburbs in American metropolitan areas. However, he also made important contributions on a broad range of topics including political attitudes, churches, family structure and fertility, mortality in Chicago, and intergenerational mobility. His research on suburbs and neighborhood satisfaction in the 1970s and 1980s was path breaking and foreshadowed the literatures on residential mobility and locational attainment that would emerge in the 1990s. Pete’s research on U.S. fertility in the late nineteenth century remains some of the most important work on the American fertility transition.
Pete served as editor of Demography from 1991 to 1993 and served two terms on the PAA’s Board of Directors, 1993-95 and 1999-2001. As Demography editor, Pete was known for his detailed and insightful decision letters and his high standards. Even rejected authors could not help but have great respect for Pete’s careful consideration of their manuscripts and his fairness.
During his career, Pete served as mentor to many sociology and demography graduate students who have gone on to hold senior positions at major universities and positions of leadership in the field. Among those whom he mentored, Pete earned a reputation as a tough taskmaster with high standards and expectations. He was also extremely generous with his time, his advice, and his support. Even a quick scan of Pete’s curriculum vitae reveals an extensive record of co-publishing with the graduate students who worked with him.
Outside of the academy, Pete and his wife Kris are world travelers and very active in their community. Pete and Kris met when they were graduate students at Wisconsin. Pete only recently gave up soccer in which he first specialized as goalie. As goalie, Pete exercised the same quality control over potential goals as he did as an editor and as a mentor of graduate students’ dissertations. That is – only the very best got by him! During his later soccer career, Pete played at midfield where his team could take maximum advantage of his ball control and passing skills.