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Thayer helps Pacific rock

Thayer's ability to bring in fellow musicians and pro athletes has been amazing.

When life hands you face paint - you make music. And money. That seems to be the lesson Pacific University has learned coming off another successful fundraising event last weekend at the Legends Golf Tournament.

Over the past four years, the two-day event, which included a celebrity-packed dinner and auction at Nike World Headquarters, has raised an estimated $500,000 for Washington County's only four-year college, generated some national press for the region and proved that glam rockers can still pack a house.

And, oddly enough, the man who made it happen wasn't supposed to end up at Pacific at all.

In the fall of 2005, when former Pacific University president Phil Creighton was looking to fill a slot on the board of trustees, he contacted Jim Thayer, well-connected retired military man who had founded J.Thayer Co, served as president of the Beaverton Chamber of Commerce and on the boards of Reed College and the Tuality Hospital Foundation.

Thayer wasn't ready to accept another commitment, but suggested that his son might be interested in joining.

As the story goes, Creighton assumed he was talking about one of the older boys, who'd helped their dad turn a $5,000 investment into a $45 million office supply business.

To Creighton's surprise, the elder Thayer was referring to Tommy, his younger son, whose formal education ended with his graduation from Sunset High School and who was making a living putting on makeup and platform shoes, strapping on a guitar and screaming about partying every day.

Yup. Creighton was being asked to name the lead guitarist for KISS to the Pacific University Board of Trustees.

To his credit, Creighton took a chance and said yes, though the university initially downplayed Thayer's association with KISS. In fact, when The Oregonian made the connection and profiled Thayer, the folks in Pacific's PR department grumbled that the story neglected the achievements of the other trustees. (As if any of them had ever appeared on American Idol or been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!)

At some point, however, the university realized it had a huge asset and in 2007 let Thayer, who is an avid golfer, organize a fundraiser. His ability to bring in fellow musicians and pro-athletes has been amazing and given the sleepy liberal arts college a bit of a well-deserved swagger and some cred with students.

The money Thayer and his buddies have helped raise has been instrumental in bringing back Pacific's football program and improving facilities that are available to all students, as well as the surrounding community.

In an era when non-profits, including Pacific, are finding it hard to get donors to open their wallets, Thayer has hit on an event that gives university supporters a weekend of fun, raises the school's profile and generates a ton of needed cash.

Not bad for a guy who got his degree from the School of Rock.

Now, everybody join in:

I, wanna rock and roll all night…

and party every day.