Take a step back in time with us and look at some notable moments in the history of the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy.

2004 December

Jake Theissen and David JohnstonThe Lyle S. Hallman Foundation made a leadership grant of $3 million to establish an endowment providing ongoing support for the Hallman Director, School of Pharmacy. This exceptional gift was a key to securing both public and private support, providing crucial endorsement at an early stage of the School’s development.

Jake Theissen (left) was hired as the first Hallman Director. He joined UW's then-President David Johnston (right) to found the first new Canadian pharmacy school in 20 years.

"People here take on things that others think impossible," says Theissen of UW. Theissen came to the project after 31 years of teaching pharmacy at the University of Toronto.

2006 March

Carl Zehr, George Smitherman, Jake Theissen and David Johnston with shovels diggingOn March 14, a cold day with falling snow and howling wind, UW leadership and municipal and provincial politicians gather to break ground on the King and Victoria site where the School of Pharmacy will be built.

"The School of Pharmacy will mean great things for Kitchener, for UW, and for the future of health care," said David Johnston at the event.

Left to right: Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr, Ontario health minister George Smitherman, Jake Theissen and David Johnston.


Marianna Foldvari and her lab groupThe project team began recruiting first-class faculty and staff members. Marianna Foldvari (right, with her lab group) was the first faculty member hired after Jake Theissen – she joined the School in 2006. Foldvari was followed by faculty Shawn Wettig, Roderick Slavcev, Nancy Waite, and Jamie Joseph in 2007. All four are still with the School. Early staff hires were also essential to the School’s success. Laura Manning was the first Director of Advancement and Barbara Rae-Schneider was the first Administrative Officer. Ken Potvin was hired as the School’s Director Admissions, Professional Relations, and Undergraduate Affairs, and he still holds the role today.

More exceptional faculty and staff were to follow: the School went from opening with only six faculty members and a handful of staff to having over 60 faculty and staff in 2018.

2008 January


2011 white coat ceremonyThe School ran its first class on January 7, 2008. Construction of the Kitchener satellite campus was not yet complete, so the first year of classes were on UW's main campus. The vanguard class (right) contained 91 pharmacy students who came to UW Pharmacy from across Ontario.

2008 September

Co-op students speaking in a classroomThe first co-op work term ran September-December 2008. Co-operative education in pharmacy was new in Canada at this time, and early employers of our students showed both generosity and foresight in their decision to hire Waterloo Pharmacy. The co-op model has been embraced and become a hallmark of our program: our students take jobs across the province and around the world and we now have on average 30% more jobs than students every work term. 

2009 January

School of Pharmacy Teaching began in the newly completed School of Pharmacy at the intersection of King and Victoria, Kitchener. The School welcomed its second cohort of students.

The building has received multiple architectural awards. In 2010, the design team received a Design Exchange Silver Medal for commercial architecture. In 2011, the team won a Design Excellence Award from the Ontario Association of Architects.

2009 March

UofT and UW hockey teams on the iceThe Ontario Pharmacists Association hosted the first OPA Cup, an annual hockey game where University of Toronto (UofT) and  University of Waterloo pharmacy students face off to be the top pharmacy hockey team in the province. UofT won the first game, but of the nine OPA Cup games from 2009-2017, UW has won six.

2009 April

a student gives a science demonstration to a crowd of people On April 17, 2009 the School held its grand opening, an event which featured local politicians and university leadership. This was followed by a public open house where over 2,000 people from the KW community stopped by for guided tours with UW Pharmacy students and staff.

2010 April

The Integrated Health Building The Integrated Health Building next door to UW Pharmacy was opened. The building houses the Centre for Family Medicine, the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine run by McMaster University, and a vision clinic run by the UW School of Optometry.

June 2010

Nancy Xiao volunteeringThe School of Pharmacy received the Innovative Involvement Award at the Volunteer Impact Awards Kitchener-Waterloo. This award recognizes an individual or organization that exhibits innovation and creativity in volunteer engagement. The School was nominated for the community service-learning program, a unique part of our curriculum which partners students with local organizations to gain experience with and empathy for a vulnerable population in our community.

2010 September

Graduate student pipettingUW Pharmacy launched an accredited graduate program at the Master's level. The Masters of Science in Pharmacy program has experienced significant interest since its launch. Originally, sixteen students were enrolled in the program.

2011 October

Convocation ceremonyOn Saturday October 22, Rx2011, the first class of UW Pharmacy students, graduated.

"The first student pharmacists to graduate from the University of Waterloo's School of Pharmacy were truly an exceptional group," said David Edwards, Hallman Director. "As the first to experience our innovative curriculum, they provided the faculty with invaluable feedback that will benefit future generations of Waterloo student pharmacists. We look forward to seeing what kind of impact this vanguard class will make in their role as medication therapy experts in the Canadian health care system."

2013 February

Three graduate students conducting research in a scientific lab On February 20, the Ontario University Quality Council accepted the positive recommendation of its Appraisal Committee regarding the proposed Doctor of Philosophy in Pharmacy program at the University of Waterloo. The PhD program, referred to by the Quality Council as an "innovative program", was launched and has allowed UW Pharmacy to expand its graduate program and the research conducted by graduate students.

2013 May

David Edwards, Nancy Waite, Lisa Dolovich, John Milloy and Marlee SpaffordThe Ontario Pharmacy Evidence Network (OPEN) was founded with a $5.7 million Health Systems Research Fund from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. OPEN is a multi-institutional research network co-led by Waterloo Pharmacy's Nancy Waite and Lisa Dolovich from the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto.

Today, OPEN is one of Canada’s leading collaborative programs in improving medication management, with more than 50 researchers and over 100 student and trainee members. Many Waterloo Pharmacy faculty members are OPEN researchers, and the Ministry funding represents the largest research grant received by a School researcher to date. 

Left to right: David Edwards, Nancy Waite, Lisa Dolovich, Kitchener Centre MPP John Milloy and Marlee Spafford

2014 January

A student counselling a patient on a medicationIn January, Waterloo Pharmacy became one of the first Canadian pharmacy schools to launch a PharmD program, replacing the Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy program. The School also began the process of developing and delivering a bridging program so that students who graduated from the BScPhm program could also earn a PharmD through the a mix of online and in-person education. Roll-out of these PharmD programs began in 2014.

2016 July

ReunionFive years after UW Pharmacy graduated its first class, the School held its first reunion. Coinciding with UW's Reunion weekend, the event is now an annual tradition that welcomes back alumni and includes continuing professional development and socializing.

2017 April

Graduate student presented research to two peopleThe UW Pharmacy graduate program continued to grow with 38 graduate students enrolled in MSc and PhD streams. To showcase the diversity and innovation of UW Pharmacy graduate student research, the School held the first Pharmacy Research Day. The day featured oral and poster presentations and guests from the university and the pharmaceutical industry. Pharmacy Research Day is now an annual tradition at the School.


The School has gone from  90 students, six faculty members, and only a handful of staff in 2008 to over 60 faculty and staff, 476 pharmacy students, 120 PharmD bridging students, 38 graduate students, and 766 alumni.