BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Aspiring to live by a quote from Stephen Grellet— “I expect to pass through this world but once; any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again”— Empire BlueCross BlueShield’s Stella Aquino said that she is grateful for her life.
“My life has been constantly enriched by the scriptures, wonders of nature, creative works of artists, inspiring life stories and loving family and friends— all these stir my grateful heart to do good,” said Aquino, who is the business director for Empire BlueCross BlueShield’s Actuarial Valuation.
Aquino was born and raised in the Philippines, where she graduated first honorable mention from the University of Santo Tomas and graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of the Philippines, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in economics. After graduating, Aquino worked at the National Development Corporation, the investment arm of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, before moving to the United States.
Following her graduation from the University of Chicago, Aquino moved to Rego Park and then moved to Long Island City, making Queens her permanent home.
“I really enjoy the vibrant communities in Queens— where I experience and learn more about the rich multi-ethnic heritage through church-sponsored events, festivals, music, cuisines; observe the day-to-day family living, and feel connected to the community,” Aquino said.
In addition to working at Empire BlueCross BlueShield for the past 25 years and counting, Aquino is one of the founding members of Anthem’s Asians Committed to Excellence Associate Resource Group, which was established in 2011. She also acts as treasurer for the Asian American Federation Board.
As a woman with a successful career, Aquino said that her gender never held her back from any opportunities, nor has it caused any great challenges.
“Maybe I am just lucky that I have not felt [as if I was] being discriminated against because I am a woman,” Aquino said. “My family members and the institutions I was connected with [schools and workplace] all respect women, and all are forward-looking. Consequently, I share this progressive perspective with the people I meet. I am very grateful to my parents, who raised us in an environment where women were equally empowered and there was no unconscious bias in favor of either gender.”
While she couldn’t name a specific pivotal moment in her life that has molded her career, Aquino said that she underwent an experience that has shaped the way she looks at life.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, during the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, Aquino was on the 31st floor of the North Tower, where she was set to have a meeting with a couple of senior officers. Before the meeting could begin, the building swayed, which Aquino thought was a high-magnitude earthquake.
“I went through the chaos, the fears and uncertainty of whether or not we would be able to get out alive,” Aquino said. “I beat death by less than 10 minutes before the building collapsed. But running away from the debris was another formidable course.
My chance then to come out scathe-free was very low.”
Aquino said that she is both grateful for the heroes who helped rescue the victims and saddened for those that didn’t make it.
“My experiences that day and the days that followed to recover reinforced my deep core values,” Aquino said.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org