Top of the Class

A Wayne State University graduate takes the stage to receive two high honors | Photography by Studio 41 Photography

FOR ASHLEY SHULTS (née Fardell) May 5, 2016 was destined to be an unforgettable day. She and her fellow Wayne State University classmates were going to accept their hard-earned degrees on stage at Ford Field. But for Ashley, a bachelor’s in criminal justice wasn’t the only honor she would be accepting. Her then boyfriend, Anthony Shults, had plans to orchestrate a wedding proposal that would make “Hollywood stop.”

The couple met in March 2012 while working together at The Capital Grille in Troy. Not long after, they began dating. “I knew from the moment I met him I was going to marry him,” says Ashley, now a student at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. “I just didn’t know when.”

Wanting to give Ashley the perfect proposal, Anthony appropriately asked her father for her hand in marriage. Once he landed on exactly how he would propose, he found himself seeking approval from another, albeit unusual, source — Wayne State University. He’d decided to propose during the spring 2016 commencement ceremony. “I knew how important that day was for her,” he says. “She had worked so hard, I just wanted it to be a perfect day for her.”

For Ashley Shults, four years at Wayne State University culminated with a pop-quiz from her sweetheart. With a single ‘yes,’ she passed with flying colors.

“He always jokes that I wanted a proposal that the whole world would know about,” Ashley says with a laugh. “I don’t remember saying that, but this is what he says I said.”

“[Wayne State wasn’t] exactly on board, though,” Anthony admits. “I told [them,] ‘You guys are either going to work with me, or I’m going to hop over the gate and do this myself.’ It was on from there.”

The graduation ceremony was set to begin at 10 a.m. with students required to be there a half-hour prior. Ashley was sitting among her fellow graduates when she noticed Anthony and her sister — whom he drove with to the ceremony — were nowhere to be found.

“I see my family, I see his family, I see all my friends that I had invited to the graduation,” she says, reliving the moment. “But I don’t see him, and I don’t see my sister. So I start panicking.”

Backstage, Anthony was having a microphone attached to him and her sister was preparing to record the proposal, which would later be shared with all their friends and family on social media.

The newly engaged couple’s monumental moment received a standing ovation from an unsuspecting crowd at Ford Field.

“At about 9:45, a gentleman over the microphone says, ‘Ashley Fardell, I need you to come to the stage.’ So, I’m freaking out. You never know what could be going on,” she says. “I go up to the stage and the gentleman says to me, ‘Are you Ashley?’ I said, ‘yes,’ and then he said, ‘I just want to let you know that your name in the roster of our booklet is spelled wrong.’ I just looked at him and said, ‘You called me up to the stage for this?’ ”

“He says to her, ‘Give me one minute, I need some help. Stand right here,’ ” recalls Anthony, who at that moment was still having his microphone attached. “She’s like, ‘What do you mean, stand right here?’ He literally just left her on that big stage by herself!”

And that’s when Ashley, perplexed at what was going on, turned around and noticed she wasn’t onstage alone afterall. There was Anthony, whom she describes as “the sweetest, most genuinely kind-hearted man.” As he walked toward her on stage, he held a Shinola watch box — a clever ploy.

Meet Mr. and Mrs. Shults. The young couple strides through Birmingham, where they wed last year.

Ashley thought she was receiving one of the beloved Detroit timepieces as a graduation gift. Instead, inside the box was the ring — a custom-made diamond design inspired by similar styles she’d pinned on Pinterest.

Then, in front of a roaring crowd of nearly 2,000 people, Anthony got down on one knee. “You would have thought I scored a touchdown,” he says. “I couldn’t hear myself anymore. Everyone was just going crazy.”

As he proposed, Anthony recited quotes inspired by a song near to them, John Legend’s 2013 ballad, “All of Me.”

“There is nothing in the world that could have been better than that moment for me,” she adds. “To graduate from college is an amazing thing in itself, but to graduate college with a degree and then have the man of your dreams propose to you, it was something that my emotions could not handle!”

The following year on a perfectly sunny 75-degree day, the couple married at The Reserve in Birmingham. On the day of their wedding, Ashley took her own turn in crafting a monumental moment by surprising Anthony — an avid collector of retro Jordan’s — with matching pairs of all white retro 4 Pure Money sneakers coolly engraved with their initials — AMS — and their wedding date, Aug. 5, 2017. “He was blown away!” she says.

The couple wore the matching sneakers on the way to their Costa Rican honeymoon.

Ashley and Anthony now live in Madison Heights where they purchased a home last fall for themselves; their Samoyed pup, Koda; and domestic short-haired Calico, Mica.

“It was all just perfect,” Anthony says. “It’s not often that someone gets to actually marry their other half.”

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