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Tommy Thayer gives keynote at Pacific University

Thayer, a 1978 Sunset High graduate, played the saxophone all through school middle school ... then he picked up a guitar.

By his own admission, Tommy Thayer was a self-proclaimed "band geek" when he played saxophone while attending Beaverton's Meadow Park Middle School, and later, at Sunset High School, where he graduated in 1978.

It was at Sunset that he honed his musical chops — playing in the symphonic, jazz and marching band there — which eventually lead him to a permanent position playing lead guitar and donning the persona of "The Spaceman" for Kiss, arguably the most influential and visual rock band to come out of the 1970s.

Thayer said his inspiration at Sunset was the school's band director, Dell Herreid, who he called both a great teacher and mentor.

On Saturday, Thayer will deliver the keynote speech _ as well as receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters for his philanthropic leadership — at Pacific University in Forest Grove.

"I didn't even go to college," Thayer said during a recent interview from his home near Thousand Oaks, Calif. "I went right from high school basically into playing music and pursuing that."

He joins his father, Brig. Gen. James B. Thayer Sr. of Lake Oswego, who also received an honorary doctorate from Pacific University in 2009. They are thought to be only the second members of the same family to receive honorary degrees at Pacific.

Tommy Thayer has been on the Pacific University Board of Trustees since 2005, creating the highly successful Legends celebrity fundraiser that ran for a decade to raise money for the NCAA Division III intercollegiate athletics program.

"So this year they're honoring me with a degree and I'm real proud that they appreciate me that much," Thayer said. "Of course I'm just honored to be a part of something like this and have people think so highly of what I've brought to the university and what I've done."

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