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American writer, philosopher, and motivational speaker, Wayne Dyer (1940-2015), was in foster care and orphanages as a child.

Wayne Walter Dyer was born in Detroit, Michigan to Hazel Vollick and Melvin Dyer. Dyer spent much of his childhood in orphanages and foster care after his alcoholic father abandoned the family of three boys and until his mother remarried. He began paid work at the age of eight, delivering newspapers and mowing lawns.

At the end of high school, Dyer joined the navy, serving four years.

He was then the first in his family to go to university, earning three degrees, including a doctorate in educational counseling, from Wayne State University in Detroit.

Dyer taught first at Pershing High School in Detroit before becoming a school counselor at Mercy High School in Farmington Hills, Michigan. 

In 1976, Dyer was teaching at St John’s University in New York. His lectures were popular and he was approached to document his theories. His first book, Your Erroneous Zones (1976) hit the best seller lists. 

Dyer eventually quit his teaching job and began touring the USA to promote the book, reportedly selling copies “out of the back of his station wagon,” according to Michael Korda (Toppo).

His early experiences in care were influential in his motivational speaking work, as he explains: 

So I had the experience of relying on myself very early in life in order to have that knowing, because otherwise I would’ve just read about it. I think of it now as a great advantage that I had. It certainly taught me to rely upon myself at a very young age. And that’s what I’ve been teaching since I was a little boy. Growing up in Detroit foster homes and orphanages, I was immersed in opportunities to learn self-sufficiency at an early age. Of course, so were all the other children around me… I was aware, by age 10, that whatever happens to me, my own destiny was right in my very own little hands and in nobody else’s (FosterClub).

Wayne Dyer published more than thirty books for adults, and six books for children.  He also established a scholarship in his name at Wayne State University in 2008 for students in financial need.


Dyer, Wayne. I Can See Clearly Now. Hay House, 2013.

Dr Wayne W Dyer. 

“Dr. Wayne Dyer”. FosterClub. 

Montemurri, Patricia. “Wayne Dyer scholarships help dozens of WSU students.” Detroit Free Press, 31 August 2015. 

Toppo, Greg. “Self-help guru Wayne W. Dyer dies at 75.” USA Today, 30 August 2015.

Image available here.