With Pacific University’s graduation ceremony vastly approaching, the university has announced that this year’s commencement speaker will be lead guitarist for the rock band KISS, Tommy Thayer.
Hailing from the town of Beaverton, Ore., Thayer has given back to his hometown community and Pacific over the years by hosting rock concerts and auctions with proceeds going to local causes.
Along with his commencement speech, Thayer will also be accepting an honorary degree doctorate of humane letters degree from the university to recognize his philanthropic leadership efforts that have benefited thousands of Pacific students.
“We are giving him an honorary degree because he has been hosting these rock concerts and auctions for the past ten years and we were able to set up an endowment with the proceeds being split between music and athletics,” President Lesley Hallick said. “He is also a board member and we told him he had to come and say something to get it.”
Thayer has served on Pacific’s Board of Trustees since 2005 and helped launch the Legends Golf Classic at Pacific, an annual star-studded event that attracts a wide range of celebrities from the music, sports and entertainment worlds.
He has helped the university generate more than $3.5 million for its athletic program from the golf event that began in 2007.
According to Hallick, he is a bit nervous for the speech because he does not do a lot of speaking at their concerts.
“Our tradition here is that our graduation speeches are typically pretty short,” Hallick said. “It won’t be a very long speech but he will be speaking.”
Thayer was born in Portland and his family lived in Beaverton where Thayer attended Sunset High School. Tommy’s father James Thayer is a retired Brigadier General in the United States Army and was involved in liberating the camps in Europe during World War II. The Oregon Veteran’s Museum is currently being rebuilt and renamed in his honor.
While Tommy attended Sunset High School, he formed a garage band called Black ‘n Blue which found success in its own right. But in the late 80’s, Thayer began working with Gene Simmons which eventually led to his full-time role with KISS.
“Tommy actually started working for KISS as a sort of manager,” Hallick said. “He was always traveling with them and playing the guitar, so he knew all the songs. When the lead guitar fell out, Tommy was ready to step right in.”
With Pacific’s May commencement set for Saturday, May 19 at 9:30 a.m., the university and Hallick are looking forward to hearing Thayer speak.
“We are very excited to have Thayer and have him speak after all the work he has done for the university,” Hallick said. “It will definitely be a good time.”