A Q&A with Philanthropist Bruce Bastian

For the past 20 years, Bruce Bastian, cofounder of WordPerfect, has generously supported a wide range of initiatives at the University of Utah through personal donations and the B.W. Bastian Foundation. Examples include a gift of 55 new pianos for School of Music students in the College of Fine Arts; support for public broadcasting through KUED and KUER; programming at the LGBT Resource Center; and formal staff LGBTQ training by the University Hospital Foundation. We had an opportunity to ask Bruce some questions about his philanthropy and are pleased to share his response with you here.

“Gracious, generous, compassionate, brilliant, and loyal, Bruce has never sought the spotlight with regard to any of his giving. He gives with his heart. We hope that, through funding from the Bastian Foundation, our impact builds bridges, richer partnerships, and greater understanding of the communities we support.”

Michael Marriott  | Executive Director | B. W. Bastian Foundation

IMPACT Newsletter: In a nutshell, what is your philosophy on giving back? Why do you do it?

BRUCE BASTIAN: I didn’t have some emotional moment when I thought I needed to give back. I saw issues and situations where I thought I could make a difference, so I started trying to do just that. I realized that giving my voice, my support, and my money can indeed make a difference. There are many good organizations to which I do not contribute, and that is because I feel many people support that organization. I tend to give my money to organizations and issues that need my support.

IMPACT: What made you decide to lend your support to U-sponsored initiatives and what have you been especially gratified in seeing come to fruition through your support?

BASTIAN: I think my first donation to the U was made to the LGBT Resource Center, which I believed needed support at that time. I believe the U supports diversity, which is very important to me. I certainly cannot and do not support everything that I am asked to support, but I do have many shared goals with the U and therefore want to support it when I can. In addition to the growth of the LGBT Center, a gratifying gift was the Steinway pianos because that gift continues to benefit the U and bless the students who use them.

Utah Philanthropist Bruce Bastian

Utah Philanthropist Bruce Bastian

IMPACT: You have provided support for many diversity initiatives, including annual programing support to the U’s LGBT Resource Center. Why does this cause matter to you? Why now?

BASTIAN: I think being different is normal. I believe being different is a blessing in our lives. For many years, I was told I needed to change and become “normal” like others. It took me a long time (and a lot of counseling) to realize I was okay the way I am. People and organizations who do not support diversity or try to change people into being “normal” get too much support in Utah (in my opinion) and need someone or something to counter them. Why now? Now is all we have.
We can’t change the past, but we can try to mold the future. Supporting diversity is my number one goal when it comes to philanthropy.

IMPACT: Why are the arts so important to you?

BASTIAN: I believe the arts are the key to a person’s soul. If you go through life only experiencing things with your mind, you miss out on the greatest emotions of your life. The arts open up the soul and the heart to feelings and emotions. On the flip side, the arts are the best training tools we have for younger people. For example, learning to read, play, and write music is the best training we can give young people to prepare them for studies in math, physics, and computer science. And yet the arts are the first thing legislatures cut funding for. So it takes philanthropy to try to make up the difference.

IMPACT: What are you most passionate about?

BASTIAN: I am most passionate about trying to counter lies and untruths that are out there, and there are many. It is easy to use lies to cause fear and anger. It takes time and effort (and money) to really educate and promote truth. I think I can link my fight for truth to my goals to support LGBT equality, diversity, and even the arts. My goal of promoting truth is also significant in my political views. Philanthropy was never a goal of mine. I became a philanthropist because I started supporting people, organizations, and issues I believe in and want to fight for. I have learned that even small amounts of money can make big differences in doing good in the world. I would encourage everyone to get more involved in things they believe in. Not only can they really make a difference, they will also have a lot of good come back into their lives as they do it.

Louise Degn Leaves a Legacy

Planned Gift Establishes Scholarship for Communication Students

Louise Degn, a journalist, documentarian, archivist, and University of Utah professor— known for her great sense of humor—was a broadcast journalist in Utah who won high acclaim for her investigative reporting. Before she died of bone cancer in May 2015, she made a planned gift to the U to establish The Louise Degn Endowed Scholarship in the Department of Communication for undergraduate students. “I suspect she wanted to make sure that a strong education in journalism was available to every undergraduate student who wanted it, regardless of financial resources,” says her good friend, Ann Darling, assistant vice president of undergraduate studies and a former chair of the department. The first recipient of the Degn Scholarship will be selected this spring.

Broadcast journalist Louise Degn taught at the U for 20 years.

Broadcast journalist Louise Degn taught at the U for 20 years.

After graduating from Utah State University in 1968 with a degree in political science, Louise became only the second female broadcast reporter employed by Salt Lake City’s KSL Television. In 1970 she received a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and began her 23-year career as a journalist. As a producer, she documented Utah issues ranging from the emerging women’s liberation movement, demolition of the LDS tabernacle in Coalville, Utah, and the Teton Dam break, to Howard Hughes’s will, Gary Gillmore’s execution, Rulon Allred’s assassination, and Mark Hofmann’s forgeries of early Mormon papers. Her stories appeared on TV news programs including “Dimension Five,” “TalkAbout,” and “Prime Time Access.”

The groundbreaking documentary Mormon Women and Depression, produced by Louise in 1979, broke the silence on mental health issues in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints community and generated requests for copies of the program from Mormon congregations throughout the world.

When a downturn in the economy in 1990 affected the local broadcasting industry, Louise left KSL to join the U’s communication faculty where she was an associate professor and served as associate department chair, and then director of the department’s undergraduate studies. She was passionate about teaching and her students consistently placed among the top 10 in the nationally respected Hearst Journalism Awards Program. “Louise had exacting standards,” says Ann. “She loved great writing and she struggled with tolerating anything less from her students.” She taught at the U for 20 years.

“Louise continues to inspire many of us,” says Glen Feighery, associate chair and director of undergraduate studies in the U’s Department of Communication. “Her guiding principle was ‘Do what’s right for our students.’ Louise helped shape a curriculum that is rigorous and challenging. She also helped shape a department that is welcoming, caring, and closely tied to the communities it serves. We are proud of the legacy that Louise Degn left our department and the scholarship in her name will honor her accomplishments.”

Much of Louise’s broadcast work is archived in the Marriott Library’s Special Collections and online at http://nwda.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv16961.