KISS guitarist Tommy Thayer to speak at Pacific University, receive honorary doctorate

Tommy Thayer during an interview with KATU at Pacific University. (KATU Photo)

Tommy Thayer travels the world playing lead guitar for the rock band KISS.

“Being a member of KISS, now for 16 years, has been one of the greatest experiences one could imagine,” says Thayer, adding: “It’s a dream come true. This is what every kid dreams about.”

However, he always enjoys coming home. Thayer grew up in Beaverton and went to Sunset High School.

“I always love being up here,” says Thayer. “This is my roots; this is where I grew up right here in Washington County, and we’re out here at Pacific University, Forest Grove Campus, and it’s always a thrill being here seeing all the great people and good friends.”

Thayer’s father is 96-year-old Brig. Gen. James B. Thayer Sr., who earned a Silver Star in World War II. Thayer Sr. had done work with Pacific University and Tommy joined the Board of Trustees at the school in 2005.

“He was recipient of the honorary doctorate here about nine years ago, I think,” says Thayer, “and I was here for that, and I’m very proud of him, and he’s been a great mentor and obviously, a great father to me.”

For a decade, Tommy held a golf and music event called Legends at a few area golf courses. Tommy helped generate between $3 million and $4 million for the Pacific Athletics programs.

“It started really as a golf tournament,” says Thayer, “and it became more of a kind of a party, a dinner and a music event really. We’d do a Tommy Thayer and friends jam and people loved that more than anything and having the opportunity to be up close and personal with all of these great musicians and hearing all this classic music.”

Now, Thayer is here to receive an honorary doctorate from Pacific University and he will also deliver the commencement address to the graduating class Saturday.

“People ask me,” says Tommy, “what’s the key to success? And I really think the most important thing is perseverance and persistence more than anything. I think the number one thing is that stick-to-itiveness."

Words of wisdom from Dr. Thayer.

“Now, I’ve made a joke,” says Thayer. “It’s not going to be ‘Calling Dr. Love,’ it’s going to be calling ‘Dr. Thayer.’”

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