Class of 1970
Social and rehabilitation services courses were among several electives Larry Thayer ’70 took as a political science major looking to meet graduation requirements. An “Intro to Rehabilitation Services” course and a related internship opened a window for him on the often unseen challenges people with physical or intellectual disabilities face daily.
Combining what he learned in the classroom with the real-life experience of his internship sparked in Thayer a sense of purpose and great passion for the human services career that has consumed and compelled him for the past four decades to help people with disabilities live productive, independent lives.
“I saw a side of life I had not seen growing up in Connecticut. I saw that people had needs and that they were struggling,” Thayer said. “It was then that I decided to be in a helping profession.”
That decision led Thayer on an unanticipated career path. Rather than join VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) after graduation as he planned, he accepted a full scholarship to stay at Assumption and earn a master’s degree and certificate of advanced graduate studies (CAGS) in rehabilitation counseling, which he completed in 1972.
“Having a liberal arts degree has been very helpful for me,” Larry said. “I learned how to think, to communicate and to write effectively. You can easily apply the courses I had, like philosophy, physics and logic, when you have a vision of where you want to go and how to get there.”
“There” for Thayer has been a four-decade career in human services, which took him to Cape Cod in 1974, and where, since 1990, he has been president and executive director of Cape Abilities, a nonprofit organization committed to serving people with disabilities on Cape Cod through education, counseling, housing, employment, transportation and a litany of other therapeutic and social support services and opportunities. Under Thayer’s leadership, Cape Abilities has broadened its services and expanded its reach on the Cape from Bourne to Provincetown.
Along the way Thayer has learned that decisions can have unexpected impacts that are life-changing.
“I don’t think that people realize that choosing a college is more than an academic decision,” he said. “I didn’t want to apply to Assumption at first because I thought it was too close to home. But as soon as I got to campus, I knew it was where I wanted to be. Overall, my liberal arts education there was superb. It prepared me to deal with a wide range of experiences and people.”
It also opened Thayer’s his eyes to a different world, one in which people struggle and need help. Four decades later, he is still working to improve the quality of daily life and choices available to people with disabilities.