Rev. Frances Foley Guest ’48

“I’ve lived a strange and wondrous life,” says Rev. Frances Foley Guest ’48. Few could argue with her: She’s a survivor of a World War II prison camp, one of the first women ministers ordained by the United Methodist Church and the first Methodist Crusade Scholar, not to mention a mother of three and grandmother of five.

The child of missionary parents, Frances grew up in India, Southeast Asia and the Philippines. Before she enrolled at Dickinson in 1945, she endured 40 months in Santo Thomas, a Japanese POW camp in the Philippines. Despite the harrowing conditions, Frances completed her high school education and one year of college coursework at the camp.

At Dickinson she studied sociology, but Frances found her calling outside the classroom and in the pulpit. Because of her experience as a POW, she often was invited to speak at churches and civic organizations. Like her father, a Methodist minister, she was drawn to the church and immediately comfortable speaking to a congregation. But when she graduated in 1948, female pastors didn’t exist. Instead, Frances turned her attention to raising a family with late husband Thomas Guest ’49, and continued to serve as a guest speaker in the church.

When Tom passed away in 1976, Frances enrolled in the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, earning a master’s degree in divinity. In 1977 she became the seventh woman ordained in the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church—a pioneer among the state’s 1,200 male Methodist ministers.

As a clergywoman, Frances has served in churches of all stripes. Her parishes in Florida included rural, suburban and inner-city communities. She invigorated them all, starting enrichment programs for young and old alike. “I’ve always been very much a part of the congregation,” she says. “I’m active here, there and everywhere.”

Upon her retirement in 1991, she stayed active. In the last decade she has preached all over the world—Ireland, Zimbabwe, Rome—and returned to give a sermon at her father’s church in Manila, where several members of the congregation still remember Dr. Foley and his daughter, little Frances Helen.

When she’s not speaking to audiences in the United States and abroad, Frances calls New York City home. She remains an outstanding member of the United Methodist congregation, serving as a “supply pastor,” the church’s equivalent of a substitute teacher. She also has taken a leadership role in speaking, organizing and teaching in the Methodist Youth Fellowship and the United Methodist Women. She just returned from the UMW’s international assembly in Philadelphia, where she joined nearly 10,000 Methodist women to advocate for children and to work for social justice.

In recent years Frances has returned to Dickinson twice, as a Metzger-Conway Fellow in 2000 and as the Baccalaureate speaker in 2001. Of the Distinguished Alumni Award she says, “This is so special. It’s an amazing thing for me to get this appreciation from the college.”