KISS Guitarist Tommy Thayer will Deliver Keynote Address at Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony
Longtime Pacific University Trustee Tommy Thayer will deliver the keynote address at the university’s spring undergraduate commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 19, at Hanson Stadium on the Forest Grove Campus.
Thayer, who has served on Pacific’s Board of Trustees since 2005, also will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree at the ceremony in recognition of his philanthropic leadership efforts that have directly benefited thousands of Pacific students.
Thayer grew up in Beaverton and graduated from Sunset High School in 1978. 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 February 2003.
With a desire to give back to the community where he grew up, Tommy Thayer accepted a nomination to join Pacific’s Board of Trustees from President Emeritus Phil Creighton.
Two years later, Tommy Thayer launched the Legends Golf Classic at Pacific, an annual star-studded event that annually attracted a plethora of celebrities from the music, sports and entertainment worlds.
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 Legends, 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.
Thayer also has been a staunch supporter of the U.S. military and veterans, both through KISS concerts (for active duty servicemen/women) 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.
Thayer also has actively helped children of all backgrounds. 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, SC.
Thayer joins the ranks many illustrious leaders to hold honorary degrees from Pacific, including former Oregon Gov. Victor Atiyeh Hon. ’96, former U.S. Rep. Les AuCoin Hon. ’78, Olympic athlete A.C. Gilbert Hon. ’55, renowned college football coach Amos Alonzo Stagg Hon. ’51 — and his own father, Brigadier General James B. Thayer, who received the honor in 2009.
About 350 students will receive degrees at the undergraduate ceremony the morning of May 19. Among them is valedictorian Ryan Colson, a biology and exercise science double major from Richland, Wash., who also will speak to his classmates during the graduation ceremony.
Other degree recipients at the morning ceremony include bachelor’s degree candidates from the colleges of Arts & Sciences, Business, and Education.
That afternoon, Pacific also honors its graduate-level degree recipients with a second ceremony. Among the degrees to be awarded are the master of social work, master of business administration, master of speech-language pathology, master of arts in teaching, master of athletic training, doctor of pharmacy, doctor of physical therapy, and doctor of optometry.
Also at the afternoon ceremony, Dr. Shinji Seki OD ’79 will receive the annual Kamelia Massih Prize for a Distinguished Optometrist. Seki is an optometry professor at Kukuchi School of Optometry in Nagoya, Japan, who has spearheaded a collaborative student exchange agreement between Kukuchi and Pacific.
Pacific’s undergraduate commencement ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 19, at Hanson Stadium on the Forest Grove Campus. The graduate commencement ceremony follows at 1:30 p.m.