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.