Meet Astrid S. Tuminez: UVU president from the Philippines and RootsTech Connect keynote speaker

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of features on the Latter-day Saint keynote speakers at upcoming RootsTech Connect 2021. Read more on the virtual family history celebration.

When Astrid S. Tuminez was 5, a group of nuns from a local Catholic order invited her and her sisters to attend a special school for underprivileged children in Iloilo City in the Philippines. 

“What did that education mean for me? From being an illiterate child, ignorant, malnourished and insecure, I became someone who learned to read, discovered numbers and devoured everything,” Tuminez wrote in News Deeply in 2016.

“If you grow up underprivileged, education offers you the chance to discover an entire world. You might live in a village or under a bridge in Manila and know nothing about anything, but education can set your mind free.”

That “golden ticket” to formal learning later took the little girl from Iloilo to Brigham Young University and then to graduate studies at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Astrid S. Tuminez, Utah Valley University’s seventh president, waits for a high-five after her inauguration ceremony at the UVU Noorda Center for the Performing Arts in Orem on March 27, 2019.
Astrid S. Tuminez, Utah Valley University’s seventh president, waits for a high-five after her inauguration ceremony at the UVU Noorda Center for the Performing Arts in Orem on March 27, 2019. Credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News, Deseret News

Tuminez will be one of 13 keynote speakers at RootsTech Connect Feb. 25-27. In 2018, she became the first female president of Utah Valley University. Before UVU, Tuminez was an executive at Microsoft, where she led corporate, external and legal affairs in Southeast Asia.

She also served as vice dean of research at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. She has worked in philanthropy and venture capital in New York City and is a permanent member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Tuminez speaks several languages, including English, Filipino (Tagalog), Ilonggo, Russian and French. She is married and a mother to three children. 

Read more: How a Latter-day Saint convert from ‘the slums’ became Utah Valley University’s first female president

In a 2018 interview, Tuminez said she remains grateful for the Latter-day Saint missionaries who were led to her humble home in Iloilo. The gospel’s optimistic outlook on life and its promises of eternity were uplifting. 

“When you grow up in the slums in a life of uncertainty, indignity, disease and starvation, you latch on to that amazing message of hope,” she said. She was one of the last of her siblings to be baptized.

At RootsTech Connect, Tuminez will share the story of her mother and grandmother.

“They are gritty, colorful, strong women — I call them ‘women warriors.’ I hope that their story will resonate with many,” Tuminez told the Church News via email last week. “They were born and raised in remote villages, had no privileges, overcame great odds and created a powerful legacy with their lives.”

She said she hopes those who listen to her keynote address see how connected she is to the “women warriors” in her family — those who came before her and those who will come after.

“I hope others will be inspired to connect to their own family stories, and reflect in particular on the strength, dignity, sacrifices and leadership of their sisters, mothers, wives and daughters. The work of women is often ignored, undervalued and not measured. But, throughout history, women have always made a big difference and continue to shape who we are and what we are becoming.”

Sign up for RootsTech Connect to watch Tuminez’s keynote address. 

— Jason Swensen of the Church News contributed to this article.