Human Rights Campaign Mourns the Loss of Bruce Bastian, Champion for LGBTQ+ Equality & HRC Board Member for 22 Years

by Aryn Fields

Bastian, a tech entrepreneur and philanthropist, leaves behind a rich legacy in both Washington, D.C. and Utah — as a pioneer in the LGBTQ+ movement who worked tirelessly to support individuals and organizations like The Human Rights Campaign, Equality Utah and the Utah Pride Center

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, today announced the death of Bruce Bastian, tech entrepreneur, HRC board member and fierce advocate for equality, who passed away peacefully Sunday at the age of 76, surrounded by his four sons, his husband, Clint Ford, and friends and other family members.

Bastian joined the HRC board in 2003. The following year, alongside then-fellow HRC board member Julie Johnson, Bastian served as co-chair of the board’s successful effort to help defeat the Federal Marriage Amendment, a proposed amendment to the Constitution that would have specified marriage as legal only between a man and a woman.While fighting for equality in Washington, Bastian also cultivated deep roots for LGBTQ+ inclusion in Utah. Over the course of several decades, he supported Equality Utah, Utah Pride Center, and Encircle, among many other organizations in winning historic victories for LGBTQ+ rights.

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. 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.

Kelley Robinson, President of the Human Rights Campaign

A Tech Legacy for the Good

In 1979, while still a graduate student in computer science at Brigham Young University, Bastian co-created a word-processing software program with faculty member Alan Ashton. They went on to co-found the WordPerfect Corporation, which by the mid-1980s was the leading provider of word-processing software for the nascent personal computer industry. Bastian served as WordPerfect’s chairman until 1994.

After stepping down from WordPerfect, Bastian spent an increasing amount of time devoted to charitable causes and philanthropy. In 1997 he set up the B.W. Bastian Foundation, which adopted a policy of supporting only organizations that wholeheartedly embrace the principle of equality. In addition to supporting the LGBTQ+ community, Bastian had a deep love for music and the arts and has supported Ballet West, the Utah Symphony and Opera and many other arts organizations throughout Utah and the Intermountain West. Because of this commitment, President Barack Obama appointed Bastian to the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Arts in 2010.

“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 Grateful Community

Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams said his organization has lost a “beloved friend, mentor and benefactor. No individual has had a greater impact on the lives of LGBTQ Utahns than Bruce Bastian. Every success our community has achieved over the past three decades can be traced directly back to his love and support. Bruce invested his passion into advancing equality every day, every month and every year of his remarkable life. He has been a rock and pillar for all of us. Our community owes more to Bruce than we can possibly express.”

Stan Penfold, former Executive Director of the Utah Aids Foundation, recalled Bastian’s unwavering support of the group. “Bruce was always kind and endlessly generous.. I believe he truly understood the difficulty associated with HIV and AIDS at a time when few others were willing to help, or even mention the disease. He gave his financial support when it was not a popular or particularly safe thing to do. And he inspired others to do the same. I honestly believe Bruce saved lives, and I will be eternally grateful for his support, his devotion and his friendship. He was a larger-than-life personality, and he will leave a hole in our hearts.”

Judy Shepard, a fellow HRC board member, Founding President of the Matthew Shepard Foundation Board of Directors and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, also praised Bastian’s legacy. “Bruce led his life with his immeasurably kind heart. Building community, and just simply being there for others, was critically important to Bruce and his driving motivation for his advocacy and generosity. Bruce leaned into the hard work and centered the mission for equality and inclusion above all else. But he also knew how paramount it is to appreciate and celebrate all of the victories, big or small because the fight was always for his community to lead full, meaningful, rich lives.”

A Native of Idaho Who Made Utah His Home

Bastian was born on March 23, 1948, in Twin Falls, Idaho. He grew up on the family’s farm in Idaho before moving to Utah to attend Brigham Young University, where he became the director of the Cougar Marching Band. He received a B.A. in Music Education and an M.A. in Computer Science from BYU. As Bruce developed his illustrious career and generous philanthropy, he built a home and community in Orem, Utah and Palm Springs, California where he lived with Clint. In addition to his four sons, Bastian leaves behind 14 grandchildren, 2 sisters, a brother, and numerous other extended family members.

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