Dyer was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Melvin Lyle Dyer and Hazel Irene Vollick. He spent much of his first ten years in an orphanage on the east side of Detroit, after his father walked out on the family, leaving his mother to raise three small boys. After graduating from Denby High School, Dyer served in the United States Navy from 1958 to 1962. He received his Ed. D. degree in counseling from Wayne State University. His dissertation was titled Group Counseling Leadership Training in Counselor Education.