President Gordon B. Hinckley famously said about the decision to marry, “This will be the most important decision of your life, the individual whom you marry. … Marry the right person in the right place at the right time.”
On this week’s All In podcast, UVU President Astrid Tuminez spoke to why her decision to marry her husband, Jeffrey Tolk, was one of the most important decisions she has ever made. The couple actually met at a church dance near Harvard’s campus where Tuminez was pursuing a master’s degree on a full-ride scholarship. Jeffrey Tolk was an undergrad and he has said he was “pretty much smitten” upon their first meeting. They did not date initially but the following summer Tuminez was working in Europe and living with a friend’s parents in Paris when Tolk unexpectedly called her on the phone.
“I was like, ‘How did you get this phone number?’” Tuminez said in an interview with UVU. “Jeff was working for Senator Al Gore, and it was before the days of the internet. He’d gone to the Library of Congress, found a Paris phone book, and looked up the last name of the people I was staying with. That was the moment I decided I was going to date him because, if he could find me in Paris on my birthday, then he was definitely dating material.”
Looking back, nearly 35 years since their marriage, Tuminez knows she made the right choice in marrying Tolk.
“I don’t think I would have done as well as I’ve done without Jeff,” she said in the same interview with UVU. “When people ask me, ‘How did you do all this? How did you have three kids and still carry on a very demanding professional life?’ I always say, without hesitation, that my husband is fully integral to that success. It’s a partnership.”
Tuminez elaborated on the importance of this decision on this week’s All In podcast.
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.
Morgan Jones Pearson: You’ve said that that was one of the most important decisions of your life was marrying the man that you married because of the way that he has empowered and encouraged you. Tell me a little bit about what that looks like in practice?
Astrid Tuminez: Yes. So you know, graduating single from BYU, that’s an accomplishment. …All my roommates got married. And [I thought], “Man, what’s wrong with me?” So getting to Harvard, and meeting Jeffrey, my husband, Jeffrey Tolk, that’s a critical pillar, if you will, of my life.
I always tell my children, the most important decision you’ll ever make is whom you marry. It affects your gene pool, it affects your life, all aspects of your life. And what was funny with Jeff was when we were dating at Harvard, he was a senior about to start law school at Harvard. And he’d also done undergraduate there, and I was a master’s degree student, but when we got engaged, I don’t remember how this happened exactly [but] he just kind of turned to me, we were walking in Cambridge, and he said, “I’m not responsible for your happiness.” And I was just so struck by that. In my generation, I think we were sold the myth that you just get married, the heavens part, and you’re going to be happy forever. And that’s completely untrue. But that was my expectation—that you got married, and suddenly, as a woman, you’re all set for life. And when he said that to me, it kind of froze me in my tracks. It shocked me that this man I’m about to marry told me I’m responsible for my happiness. But that was such a wonderful thing to say to me. Because I took it seriously: I’m responsible for my happiness, and I’ll navigate my own life. And because of that, we were mutually very supportive of each other’s education and of each other’s aspirations.
My first biggest job was in the Soviet Union. And Jeff was actually in New York, starting his career as a litigator in securities. … But I would come home to New York every six weeks to say hello to him, and that’s totally something most people didn’t understand. And yet we had that commitment to one another, to supporting each other’s dreams. And that’s what I think is the secret. I always say a good marriage is one long conversation. If you have nothing more to say to each other and you’re not interested in arguments or insight or some surprising idea, I think the marriage falters, at least for me. And so this kind of mutual support and mutual respect for one another’s dreams and one another’s ideas has really, really been important to my marriage, and no one’s prouder of what I accomplished than my husband. He just loves it. That’s so important [to me], especially because I did not have parents who growing up were always clapping for [me]. I got a medal in school and everybody had a parent [at the ceremony] and I didn’t. For my graduation in sixth grade, I remember I was the salutatorian, and my father was late because we were such an informal family. We grew up in the slums—anything went—and just having my husband be there to be my cheerleader, I think that’s really important. But as I look back, it’s really wonderful to have someone cheering for you. And, for me, that’s my husband. He himself accomplished great things in his career and really was a terrific partner for raising our children.