Thayer to receive big KISS from Pacific
Pacific University is giving some love — sealed with a KISS.
The private university announced last week it plans to award an honorary doctorate to university Trustee Tommy Thayer, the lead guitarist for the rock band KISS, at the university's spring commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 19 at Hanson Stadium on the Forest Grove Campus.
Thayer, who grew up in Beaverton and graduated from Sunset High School in 1978, has served on Pacific's Board of Trustees since 2005. He has helped the university generate more than $3.5 million for its NCAA Division III intercollegiate athletics program, primarily through a highly-successful celebrity fundraiser the Legends Golf Classic, which ran from 2007 to 2016. In 2016, the 10th anniversary Legends event launched the creation of the Tommy Thayer Endowments for Music and Athletics, benefiting students in both programs at Pacific.
Last spring, the Pacific University Board of Trustees approved awarding Thayer a doctorate of humane letters degree for his philanthropic leadership efforts that have directly helped thousands of Pacific student-athletes.
Prior to receiving his honorary degree, Thayer will give the commencement's keynote address to the school's 350 graduating students.
Thayer will join his father, Brigadier General James B. Thayer Sr., as a Pacific honorary doctorate holder. The general received his honorary degree in 2009. Tommy Thayer is Pacific's first honorary degree recipient since 2015.
After forming hard-rock band Black 'N Blue and relocating to southern California in the early 1980s, Thayer joined KISS as a producer, songwriter and business manager before becoming the band's lead guitarist in 2003.
With a desire to give back to the community where he grew up, Thayer accepted a nomination to join Pacific's Board of Trustees from President Emeritus Phil Creighton in 2005.
Two years later, Tommy Thayer launched the Legends Golf Classic at Pacific, an annual event that attracted a plethora of celebrities from the music, sports and entertainment worlds.
Over the course of 10 years, hundreds of attendees annually enjoyed an auction and dinner, intimate concert featuring some of the world's greatest musicians, and played golf with the likes of KISS co-founder Gene Simmons, comedian/actor George Lopez, PGA pro John Daly, NFL Hall-of-Famer Eric Dickerson, Thayer himself and many more.
Funds raised at Legends directly led to the successful reinstatement of the university's football program, creation of the Boxer Learning Center for student-athletes, resurfacing of the athletic fieldhouse, addition of a roof and video scoreboard at Hanson Stadium in 2014, facilities expansion to accommodate junior varsity sports programs and ultimately, perpetual support of Pacific's music and athletics programs through the Tommy Thayer Endowed Funds.
Thayer's interest in combining music and golf for a worthy philanthropic cause is also apparent in an annual benefit concert he performs in La Quinta, Calif., for the Tradition Golf Club Arnold Palmer Education Fund. To date, he and Pacific Trustee Emeritus Dan Dutton have raised more than $1 million in support of the fund.
Thayer's philanthropy is not limited to Pacific. He has been a staunch supporter of the U.S. military and veterans, both through KISS concerts for active duty service members, and individually. In 2012, he spearheaded the All-Star Salute to the Oregon Military to help raise funds in support of the new Oregon Military Museum that will be named in honor of his father.
In addition to arranging underfunded Oregon school band programs to receive new instruments, Thayer launched his own signature edition guitar amplifiers in 2008 and has donated all royalties to Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Recently, he wrote four songs for storybook application Ernest Hummingbird, which performed scenes with fellow musician Darius Rucker for the app at Children's Miracle Network Hospital in Charleston, S.C.
Pacific's undergraduate commencement ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m., Saturday, May 19, at Hanson Stadium, 2043 College Way, in Forest Grove.
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