From Doctor of Pharmacy to Doctor of Love

Thomas Maslo and Katelyn Cashman met as WSU doctor of pharmacy students. Akers officiated their wedding in May 2021.

As the associate dean of external relations, Julie Akers has helped to connect people in more ways than one. When she is not advocating for the pharmacy profession or teaching a class on pharmacy law and management, she officiates weddings. Most of the weddings have been of student pharmacists who meet their life partners while in the WSU doctor of pharmacy program.

“In pharmacy school, you get to meet people more intensely than you would in undergrad. Our students spend three didactic years together where they have every class together, meet with the same people, every day, every year, for three years. It pushes you to have stronger relationships because you spend that time together going through the same struggles and triumphs,” said Akers, who has taught at the college for nearly 10 years. “I think that’s why you see a lot of relationships form in the program.”

In the last five years since she was ordained, Akers has married five couples from the college, including students and faculty. Shelby Denney (nee Williams), class of 2017, was the first wedding she ever officiated. Soon, Akers’ ability to marry couples traveled by word of mouth. Students who met their life partners while in pharmacy school would ask her to marry them.

“Pharmacy school fast-forwards your relationships. Because you’re spending such a significant amount of time together, day in and day out, you find out very quickly whether you’re compatible or not,” says Akers.

Akers stands with class of 2019 student, Ahmed Bassyouni, as he awaits his bride, Danielle Deardorff. The two married in September 2021 at a ranch overlooking the Cascade Mountains in Arlington, Washington.

The weddings she has officiated are as eclectic as the students themselves. In a recent wedding she married two former students, Thomas Maslo and Katelyn Cashman, both class of 2019. Traditionally, a groom stands with the officiant waiting for the bride-to-be to come down the aisle. Akers says, fitting with his outgoing personality and passion for kayaking, Thomas paddled over on a kayak across a pond to the ceremony arch. The theme song of Jaws played in the background, and though it wasn’t the typical entrance for a groom to meet his future wife, it left an indelible impression on Akers. She says watching students break out of who they were as young adults and move into adulthood has been one the most rewarding aspects as an officiant and professor.

“It’s great when you see two people elevate each other and bond through common interests,” says Akers.