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Bruce Bastian, co-founder of WordPerfect and longtime LGBTQ+ philanthropist, dies at age 76

Posted at 6:27 PM, Jun 16, 2024

SALT LAKE CITY — Bruce Bastian, a Utahn who pioneered developments in word processing and later became a major supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, has passed away.

Equality Utah, of which Bastian was a founding member, announced his death on Sunday. He was 76 years old.

"No individual has had a greater impact on the lives of LGBTQ Utahns," Equality Utah executive director Troy Williams said. "Every success our community has achieved over the past three decades can be traced directly back to Bruce."

In 1979, Bastian co-created a word-processing program (which later became WordPerfect) as a graduate student at Brigham Young University. His co-founder was Alan Ashton, a BYU computer science professor. They developed the software as a contract for the city of Orem, but they retained ownership of it.

"Bruce was definitely a legend, running one of the most successful companies, and an out and proud gay individual," David Parkinson said in a 2022 interview with Equality Utah. "Not only does he give his money, but he gives his time, he gives his connections, he gives his knowledge, to help change Utah."

In Sunday's announcement, Equality Utah praised Bastian's contributions as a "friend, mentor and benefactor" to the LGBTQ+ community. They pointed out his support for other advocacy organizations from the beginning, such as The Utah AIDS Foundation, the Utah Pride Center, Plan-B Theatre and Encircle.

"I think Bruce has done more than people will ever realize," said Jerry Rapier, Plan-B Theatre's artistic director.

Rapier said Bastian fully funded some of their shows and ensured the theater survived the market crash of 2008.

"I was flabbergasted and overwhelmed and incredibly grateful and empowered by that vote of confidence," he recalled.

"It was never about recognition, it was about service," said Rapier.

Stan Penfold, former executive director of the Utah AIDS Foundation, said Bastian supported them back when many were too afraid to be associated with the cause.

"I joined the foundation in 1994. We were typically seeing anywhere from three to five of our clients dying every week. It's really hard to think about how horrific that time was," he said.

Penfold said Bastian's support "never wavered, never once."

"I think it's safe for me to say he changed my life," said Penfold. "He made it possible for me to do something that I cared very deeply about and I'll always remember him for that."

"Bruce’s impact reached far beyond Utah, as a leading supporter of the national marriage equality movement, and a major benefactor and board member of the Human Rights Campaign. He has been a rock and pillar for all of us," Equality Utah's statement read in part. "Our community owes more to Bruce than we can possibly express. We send our love, gratitude and condolences to Bruce’s wonderful husband Clint, and his friends and children."

His philanthropy also included funding for the performing arts, including the Utah Symphony + Opera, Ballet West, the University of Utah and more. In 2010, he was appointed to the Presidential Advisory Committee of the Arts by President Barack Obama.