November 21, 2002
Brother Ralph E. Thayer, S.M., died Thursday, Nov. 21, at Methodist
Hospital of complications following heart surgery. He
was 83 and in the 65th year of his religious profession in the Society of Mary.
Services will be conducted in the Chapel of the Marianist Residence. Rosary
at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 22, and Mass of Resurrection at 10:15 a.m.
Saturday, Nov. 23, followed by interment in the Marianist Cemetery on the
campus of St. Mary’s University. Arrangements are with the Angelus Funeral
Home in San Antonio.
Brother Thayer was born in Del Rio, Texas on May 12, 1919, to Ralph A. and
Carle Emerson Thayer. He was one of three siblings, a brother George
Emerson and a sister, Elizabeth Ann. As a child, Brother Thayer was called
Ed to avoid confusion.
He considered himself a native of San Antonio since his family moved to the
Alamo city when he was six months old. He attended
St. Cecilia’s Grade School and Central Catholic High School. He entered
the novitiate at Maryhurst in Kirkwood, Mo., on Aug. 13, 1937 and
professed his first vows on Aug. 25, 1938. He spent three years as a
scholastic, first at Maryhurst and then at the University of Dayton. He
earned a B.A. in History and a B.S. in Education. He professed his final
vows July 16, 1942 and celebrated his 60th anniversary in 1998.
His teaching career began at McBride High School in St. Louis in March
1941. In August of that year he went to Coyle High School (now Vianney) for
two years. He headed for Texas for the next seven years: three years at
Victoria, one year at Central Catholic and three more years at Victoria. In
1950 he returned to McBride for one year before making the second novitiate
at Glencoe, 1951 to 1952. He was among the first group to attend the
renewal program at that location. In 1952, he returned to Texas where he
has remained until his death. He had promised God that if he could return
to Texas away from the cold winters of the north and stay put he would
never complain about the Texas heat. He kept that promise. After teaching
at Central Catholic from 1952 to 1955, Brother Thayer joined the history
faculty at St. Mary’s University in 1955, and served as the department’s
chairman from 1961 to 1963 and from 1975 to 1984. He retired in 1992.
He attended Our Lady of the Lake College during the summers to pursue a
bachelor’s degree in Library Science, earning his degree in 1946 and later,
in 1955, was awarded a master’s degree in History from Loyola University in
Chicago. His teaching fields were history and social studies.
As a member of the San Antonio Historical Society, Brother Thayer served as
their Secretary-Treasurer, Vice-President and President. He also belonged
to the Texas Historical Association, the American Historical Association,
Pi Gamma Mu and Phi Aplph Theta. He also prepared and narrated sixteen
television programs on Texas history as part of the Continuing Education
Program of St. Mary’s University. He also served for several years on the
selection committee of the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation’s Professor Award.
Brother Thayer’s other extra-curricular activities included coaching
football, basketball, baseball and boxing. He also served as Athletic
Director at McBride High School and from 1955 to 1970 and he was a member
of the Athletics Committee of St. Mary’s.
One dream he had that was realized was learning how to fly a single engine
airplane. With the permission of the Provincial Council and his religious
superior, Brother Thayer learned how to fly and earned his pilot’s license.
As a result, he flew single-engine Pipers, Mooneys, Grummans and
Cessnas. When he served as Vice-President for Student Services, he
frequently flew the Rev. Louis J. Blume and the Rev. James Young, both of
whom would be presidents of St. Mary’s, to their destinations. Only once
did he have engine trouble. While returning to San Antonio he crash-landed
near Roosevelt and Loop 410, not far from the airstrip in 1979. Though EMS
was called, he walked away from the crash and was sitting on the highway
when they arrived. He was more embarrassed for damaging the plane than he
was for his own welfare, but his interest in aviation continued all his life.
During his long teaching career at St. Mary’s, Brother Thayer served as a
Proctor of the residence halls; a member of the Committee on Rules and
Discipline, moderator of the Student Council, chairman of the Department of
History, Vice-President of Student Personnel Services, and member of the
Executive Council. He was also a committee member on the Library and the
Council on Teacher Education.
During his “retirement years” since 1992, Brother Thayer continued to be
responsible for the religious community’s vehicles, was the barber for his
community and other local communities, oversaw community temporalities,
performed some yard work and chauffeured for the non-drivers.
He is survived by his brother and sister-in-law, George Emerson and Elaine
Thayer, and his nephew Robert Thayer, all of San Antonio area. His sister,
Elizabeth Ann Thayer, preceded him in death.