Bruce Bastian, champion for LGBTQ+ rights and tech visionary, dies at 76

News spread quickly Sunday morning, June 16, that Bruce Bastian, a tech entrepreneur and dedicated philanthropist, died in his Palm Springs home surrounded by his four sons, husband Clint Ford, and close family and friends. He was 76. A family friend noted his death was due to complications from pulmonary fibrosis.

Bastian’s contributions to the LGBTQ+ community were monumental. He was well known locally as hosting an annual dinner in Utah for the Human Rights Campaign. He joined the HRC board in 2003, and played a pivotal role in defeating the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004, a proposed amendment to the Constitution that sought to define marriage exclusively as a union between a man and a woman. In 2008, Bastian wrote a $1 million check to the campaign against California’s Proposition 8, saying, “If people are shown the truth and have fear taken out of the equation, I believe they will stand up for what’s good and fair.”

His efforts extended beyond Washington, D.C., making significant strides in promoting LGBTQ+ inclusion in Utah. Over decades, Bastian supported numerous organizations, including Equality Utah, the Utah Pride Center, and Encircle, achieving historic victories for LGBTQ+ rights.

A Tech Pioneer

In 1979, Bastian co-created a word-processing software program with Alan Ashton while still a graduate student in computer science at Brigham Young University. This collaboration led to the founding of WordPerfect Corporation, which became a leading provider of word-processing software in the personal computer industry by the mid-1980s. Bastian served as the company’s chairman until 1994.

After leaving WordPerfect, Bastian turned his focus to philanthropy. In 1997, he established the B.W. Bastian Foundation, which supported organizations embracing the principle of equality. His philanthropic efforts extended to the arts, with significant contributions to Ballet West, the Utah Symphony and Opera, and various other arts organizations throughout Utah and the Intermountain West. Recognizing his commitment to the arts, President Barack Obama appointed Bastian to the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Arts in 2010.

A Beloved Community Leader

Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams described Bastian as a “beloved friend, mentor, and benefactor,” emphasizing that no individual had a greater impact on the lives of LGBTQ+ Utahns. “Every success our community has achieved over the past three decades can be traced directly back to his love and support,” Williams said.

Stan Penfold, former Executive Director of the Utah AIDS Foundation, remembered Bastian’s unwavering support during the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis. “Bruce was always kind and endlessly generous. He truly understood the challenges of HIV and AIDS when few others did. His financial support saved lives, and his legacy of compassion and advocacy will never be forgotten.”

Judy Shepard, a fellow HRC board member and Founding President of the Matthew Shepard Foundation Board of Directors, praised Bastian’s kindness and dedication to building community. “Bruce led his life with an immeasurably kind heart. His advocacy and generosity centered on equality and inclusion, and he celebrated every victory for the community he loved.”

“We are devastated to hear of the passing of Bruce Bastian, whose legacy will have an undeniably profound impact on the LGBTQ+ community for decades to come. Bruce was in this fight, working at every level of politics and advocacy, for over three decades,” said Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “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. It’s hard to overstate the immense footprint he leaves behind for LGBTQ+ advocates in Washington, D.C., Utah and beyond. Bruce stood up for every one of us and uplifted the beautiful diversity of our community. It’s the kind of legacy we should all be proud to propel forward.”

“The B.W. Bastian Foundation mourns the loss of our founder and friend,” said Michael Marriott, the foundation’s executive director. “The impact he had on so many lives was immeasurable. 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.”

A Life of Achievement and Generosity

Born on March 23, 1948, in Twin Falls, Idaho, Bruce Bastian grew up on his family’s farm before attending Brigham Young University. There, he became the director of the Cougar Marching Band and earned degrees in Music Education and Computer Science. Bastian married Melanie Laycock in 1976; they divorced in 1993. Melanie Bastian passed away in 2016. Bastian later found happiness with Clint Ford, whom he married in 2018.

Throughout his life, Bastian was committed to authenticity and personal growth. In a 2020 interview, he reflected on his journey, saying, “I am happier than I’ve ever been. It has really taken down all the barriers. I really am on this kick now of authenticity.”

News of Bastian’s death brought numerous tributes highlighting his profound impact on the community. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall called Bastian’s legacy “formidable,” and Diane Lewis, chair of the Utah Democratic Party, described him as a “light to the people of our state.”

Organizations Bastian supported, such as Project Rainbow Utah and the Human Rights Campaign, remembered him as a champion of LGBTQ+ rights. His philanthropy also extended to the arts, with Ballet West and Utah Symphony | Utah Opera acknowledging his significant contributions.

Bruce Bastian is survived by his husband, Clint Ford; three siblings: Reese, Camille, and Marietta; his four sons: Rick (Heather), Darren (Lisa), Jeff (Cristi), and Robert (Amy); and 14 grandchildren. Memorial services have not yet been announced. His legacy of compassion, advocacy, and generosity will continue to inspire and guide future generations.

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