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Bruce Bastian, BYU alum-turned-tech pioneer and equality advocate, dies at 76

By Curtis Booker - | Jun 17, 2024

Courtesy Human Rights Campaign

Bruce Bastian, a former tech entrepreneur, philanthropist and advocate for LGBTQ+ communities, died Sunday, June 16, 2024, at age 76.

Bruce Bastian, an alumnus of Brigham Young University who pioneered a successful word-processing application and later would become an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, died Sunday.

Bastian, 76, passed away surrounded by his four sons, husband Clint Ford, friends and other family members, the Human Rights Campaign reported.

His death was marked family and members of the LGBTQ+ community he championed, as well as other organizations he was involved with.

“I think people will remember him for a number of reasons, from his work with technology, his philanthropy, and within the LGBTQ community. As for others, we’ll remember him as a loving husband and father,” Bastian’s oldest son, Rick, told the Daily Herald.

Bastian was a member of the Human Rights Campaign, Encircle, Equality Utah and the Utah Pride Center. He traveled to the nation’s capital and fought for equal marriage rights while advocating for inclusion of people with differing sexual orientations.

“Bruce was in this fight, working at every level of politics and advocacy, for over three decades,” Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a press release. “He traveled all across this country on HRC’s behalf and worked tirelessly to help build an inclusive organization where more people could be a part of this work.”

Bastian also was a major supporter of organizations like Equality Utah, Utah Pride Center, and Encircle.

Encircle has a series of homes throughout Utah that provide mental health services, resources and tools for LGBTQ+ youth and families. Encircle opened its first location seven years ago in Provo, and it was named after Bastian and Ford.

“Bruce was an invaluable member of our community and worked tirelessly to make our country a safer place for LGBTQ+ individuals,” Encircle’s CEO, Jordan Sgro, said in an emailed statement sent to the Daily Herald. “He was instrumental in building Encircle and we would not be where we are today without support from Bruce and his husband, Clint. Most importantly, Bruce was a friend and an incredible mentor, and served for years on our Board of Directors. He will be greatly missed.”

Prior to his social impact and philanthropic work, or even entrepreneurship, Bastian moved to Utah from southern Idaho to attend Brigham Young University. During the mid 1970s, he served as director of the Cougar Marching Band.

In 1979, while still attending the university as a graduate student in computer science, he co-founded what would eventually become WordPerfect Corp. along with faculty member Alan Ashton. It initially was developed as a word-processing software for a minicomputer owned by the City of Orem. Bastian and Ashton were able to maintain ownership of the software.

The company served as a dominant force in the technology space throughout the 1980s and 1990s. At one point, Bastian was worth $840 million, the Deseret News reported in 2003.

Bastian stepped down from his role as chairman of WordPerfect in 1994 and the company was sold to Novell a short time later.

Bastian would go on to focus his time on charitable causes and philanthropy. In 1997, he started the B.W. Bastian Foundation, whose commitment is to only support organizations that fully embrace equality.

“The impact he had on so many lives was immeasurable,” Michael Marriott, the foundation’s executive director, said in a press release. “His spirit and memory will live on through Clint, his husband of six years, through Bruce’s four sons and their families, and through the many lives he touched through his generosity, time, energy and commitment to making the world a better place. And Bruce’s legacy will continue in the work of the B.W. Bastian Foundation and its mission.”

Bastian also maintained his love for music and the arts. In 2010, then-President Barack Obama appointed him to the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Arts.

Bastian continued to use his resources and fortune to support organizations providing services to Utah’s LGBTQ+ community and other pro-equality causes, including the Utah Democratic Party.

“Bruce Bastian was a light to the people of our state,” Utah Democratic Party Chair Diane Lewis said in a statement. “His example calls on us to do more, especially when it comes to supporting our LGBTQ+ community.”

Bastian was born March 23, 1948, in Twin Falls, Idaho. He grew up on his family’s farm before moving south to Provo to attend BYU, where he earned a bachelor’s in music education and his master’s in computer science.

His adult life was spent in Orem and Palm Springs, California, where he lived with Ford.

In addition to his partner and four sons, Bastian also leaves behind 14 grandchildren, two sisters and a brother.

Rick Bastian says he wants his father to be remembered as being courageous, someone who stood up for social justice and advocated for others. “We’ll miss him dearly,” he said.

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