Pacific University to Bestow Honorary Degree on KISS Guitarist Tommy Thayer

tommy thayerPacific University will award an honorary doctorate to longtime university Trustee Tommy Thayer, the lead guitarist for legendary rock band KISS, at the university’s spring undergraduate 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 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.

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 degree during the ceremony, Thayer will give the keynote address to the class of 2018 consisting of approximately 350 bachelor’s degree candidates.

Thayer will join his father, Brigadier General James B. Thayer Sr., as a Pacific honorary doctorate holder, the general having received his in 2009. Tommy Thayer will be Pacific’s first honorary degree recipient since 2015, and the Thayers become the second members from a same family to hold honorary degrees from Pacific.

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, who had learned of Tommy’s interest from Gen. Thayer.

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.

Over the course of 10 years, upwards of 300 attendees annually enjoyed an exquisite 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 (2014), facilities expansion to accommodate junior varsity sports programs (2016) and ultimately, perpetual support of Pacific’s music and athletics programs through the Tommy Thayer Endowed Funds.

Thayer’s philanthropy is certainly not limited to Pacific. He 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’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.

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.

Tommy Thayer Fast Facts

  • KISS, Lead Guitarist (2003-present) - The Spaceman
  • KISS, producer, management/logistics (1985-2002)
  • Co-founder, Black ‘N Blue (1981)
  • Pacific University Board of Trustees (2005-present)
  • Chairman, Pacific University Legends, hosted by Tommy Thayer (2007-16)
  • Chairman, Pacific University Tommy Thayer Endowments for Music and Athletics (2016-present)
  • Philanthropist, Tradition Country Club Arnold Palmer Education Fund
  • Contributor, Ernest Hummingbird (2017)
  • Principal, Tommy Thayer Signature Edition guitar amplifiers (2008-present)
  • Principal, Tommy Thayer Epiphone Limited Edition White Lightning Explorer guitar (2017)
  • Sunset High School (1978)
Tuesday, May 1, 2018