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Stephen Covey leaves legacy of teaching, family

By Genelle Pugmire - Daily Herald - | Jul 17, 2012
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JEREMY HARMON/Daily Herald Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, in his office in Provo Tuesday March 7, 2006.

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MARK JOHNSTON/Daily Herald Author Stephen Covey (right) with his wife Sandra (left) take a look at items on auction at the third annual Star Awards at the SCERA Center for the Arts Saturday, February 9, 2008.

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ASHLEY FRANSCELL/Daily Herald Provo Mayor Lewis Billings announces the name of the Covey Center for the Arts along side Sandra and Stephen Covey Thursday, August 23, 2007 at the new Covey Center for the Arts in Provo.

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RAY MEESE/The Daily Herald Stephen R. Covey pedals his way around the Rock Canyon Park Tuesday evening. "Its pure positive energy," said Covey, who added that he enjoys the physical beauty, the sounds of children in the park laughing and the lack of traffic that the park's pathway offers.

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MARIO RUIZ/Daily Herald Seen through a a camera's monitor, Stephen Covey speaks to a crowd of thousands gathered at UVSC's McKay Events Center for this year's American Freedom Festival Patriotic Service Sunday, July 2, 2006.

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MARIO RUIZ/Daily Herald Stephen Covey applauds the families and friends of servicemen during this year's American Freedom Festival Patriotic Service at the McKay Evets Center Sunday, July 2, 2006.

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Dr. Stephen R. Covey leans over and talks with Gov. Mike Leavitt as the the Gov. anf Mayor George Stewart joined with the crowd to applaud Covey for his donation to the Neighbors Uniting Provo project. JMO Photo 5/7/97

PROVO — He was an internationally recognized author who sat in counsel with presidents and kings, but Stephen R. Covey would want to be remembered most as a great dad and loving husband. Covey, the nationally recognized author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” passed away Monday in Idaho Falls, Idaho, surrounded by his family. He was 79.

Covey, who lived in Provo, was at a family reunion in Montana when he fell ill and was rushed to the closest hospital.

A statement released by the Covey family said, “Our beloved husband and father, Stephen R. Covey, passed away peacefully in the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center at 2:15 this morning, due to the residual effects of a bike accident he suffered this past April. He was in his 80th year. In his final hours, he was surrounded by his loving wife and each one of his children and their spouses, as we sang him his favorite hymns, just as he always wanted. We extend our heartfelt gratitude for all of the love and prayers that have been showered upon Stephen and our family from all around the globe over the past several months. All our love, The Stephen R. Covey Family.”

Covey was hospitalized with head injuries he suffered after a bicycle accident in April. He also suffered cracked ribs and a partially collapsed lung, as well as the typical scrapes and bruises you would receive in a bicycle accident. He never bounced back.

Debra Lund has been Covey’s spokeswoman for more than 20 years; her emotional tribute speaks of the man so many of his employees knew.

“Other than my own parents and family, no one has had a greater influence on my life. He’s been like a father to me,” Lund said. “I want to be a person of principle the way he taught me. This is how I can pay tribute to him. It has been an honor to represent him for the past 20 years.”

Known as a family man, Covey believed the greatest work we do is within the four walls of our own homes.

“We lost a dear friend today,” said Bob Whitman, chairman and CEO of FranklinCovey. “Stephen was one of the world’s great human beings. His impact is incalculable and his influence will continue to inspire generations to come. We extend our deepest condolences to Dr. Covey’s family, his wife Sandra, their nine children and spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Stephen frequently referred to them as his greatest joy, inspiration and most significant contribution and legacy to the world.”

From his next-door neighbor to some of the most influential men and women around the world, Covey has been a mentor, teacher and friend. Through his books, seminars, television interviews and instruction he has impacted thousands upon thousands of lives. Throughout the day Monday, thousands of tweets hit the Internet from normal folks who read his books and whose lives were touched by his words and example.

A most unlikely tweet came early Monday from the Harlem Globetrotters, “Sad day for lovers of 7 Habits of Highly Creative People. RIP Stephen Covey – You’ll be missed!”

Covey’s friend Lee Perry, associate dean of the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University, spoke in near reverent tones as he remembered his friend and colleague.

“Few people who have lived on the earth will leave as much of a legacy as Steve Covey,” Perry said. “He wasn’t intimidating. He was down to earth. He always seemed engaged in what I was doing.”

Perry shared one of his favorite Covey moments. He said that after reading 7 Habits twice through, then-President Bill Clinton summoned Covey to the White House to counsel with him, and while his family wasn’t so excited, he indeed went to the White House.

Perry added that he had seen Covey in a different light than most people. Perry had been an LDS bishop to Covey’s daughter and son-in-law.

“He was an incredible father. His children had a deep admiration and sense of gratitude for everything he did for their mother and the children. The family is the smallest of organizations, but it was the most important one to him,” Perry said.

Condolences continue to pour in from around the world to his company and family with remembrances of his goodness, leadership and example. Amongst all the praise and high honors given to him, Covey would still consider himself just a man. It is amusing to note that with all that goodness, skill and self-control, the one thing he couldn’t get control of was his dog. Court records show that in April 1994 he was charged with dog at large, a class B misdemeanor. He paid $22.20; and again in February 1997 he received a class B misdemeanor for having his dog loose. He pleaded guilty and had to pay $20.

An official statement from FranklinCovey company speaks of Covey’s life’s passion.

“Covey made a decision early in his life that his greatest contribution and life’s work would be as a teacher. Beginning with his role as a university professor at Brigham Young University and then as an internationally-renowned author, speaker and consultant, he has impacted the lives of countless millions worldwide. From grade school and university students, to Fortune 100 CEOs and numerous heads of state, he made teaching principle-centered leadership his life’s work.”

His international best seller “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” sold more than 20 million copies in 40 languages, and spawned a series of 7 Habits books. He was recognized as one of Time magazine’s 25 Most Influential Americans. Chief Executive magazine recognized 7 Habits as one of the two most influential books of the 20th century. It was also named by Forbes as one of the 10 most influential management books ever written.

Other Covey bestsellers include “First Things First,” “Principle-Centered Leadership,” “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families” and “The 8th Habit.” His most recent books include “The 3rd Alternative,” “The Leader in Me” and “Everyday Greatness.”

According to the company’s press release, Covey also received the Fatherhood Award from the National Fatherhood Initiative, was named Speaker of the Year, received the Sikh’s International Man of Peace Award, and The National Entrepreneur of the Year Lifetime Award for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

Covey earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Utah, an MBA from Harvard, and a doctorate in religious education from BYU. He applied his business acumen to a long list of companies and government agencies, including Saturn, Proctor & Gamble, NASA and the American Cancer society.

According to his biographical information, Covey made the decision to leave his full-time professorship in 1984 to establish a business organization, Covey Leadership Center, that could take principle-centered leadership throughout the world.

The center expanded to 40 offices worldwide, and sold books, videos, tapes, conferences and training to countless businesses before merging with Franklin Quest to become FranklinCovey, a global performance improvement company that now operates in more than 125 countries throughout the world, in 1997.

From the time of the merger to his retirement from the board last year, Covey devoted essentially all of his time and effort to writing and teaching.

Comments on Covey’s death.

• Gov. Gary Herbert: “Jeanette and I were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our good friend, Stephen R. Covey. His combination of intellect and empathy made him a truly unique and visionary individual. The skills he taught and, as importantly, the personal example provided by the life he led, will continue to bless the lives of many. Our hearts go out to his beloved wife Sandra and the entire Covey family.”

• Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah): “Utah lost a great leader today. His innovative thinking and common-sense approach to business, success and life has been taught to hundreds of thousands of people across the country and around the world and will be followed for generations. He deeply cared about others, his family, and our country and will be missed by many. Elaine and I send our sympathies to his family and to those who have been touched by this great man.”

• Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah): “He was an inspiration to millions, a revolutionary problem solver, and an icon for business managers everywhere. It is impossible to calculate the immense amount of good that Stephen Covey did for so many people. His insight helped to shape the future of an untold number of businesses, resulting in better jobs and indeed better lives for people around the world.”

• Provo Mayor John Curtis: “Stephen Covey will be missed in this community. He was an icon for personal and business success, and a force for positive thinking and effective living. He made a mark on our world. He leaves behind a legacy of an author, a creative businessman, an innovator and a friend. Our prayers go out to his family and colleagues.”

• Lew Cramer, director of the World Trade Center Utah: “He was a very special teacher to me — he was a young, much-in-demand professor at BYU when I fought hard to get a seat in his popular Organizational Behavior class in 1972, and it transformed my life in many ways, as it did for most of my classmates, as he unrolled the principles which formed the basis for several of his later best-selling books. Without a doubt, it was the most life-changing college class I ever attended.

For many years, I have served on the board of the American Management Association (world’s largest non-profit executive training company) and Dr. Covey was consistently one of AMA’s most popular lecturers. And the reason for all this global popularity is simple: He lived the virtues, the habits, the vision that he taught, and his ideas really worked. This is a sad day, and his worldwide legion of fans, friends and students will miss him greatly.”

• United Way of Utah County president Bill Hulterstrom, a neighbor of Covey: “Stephen R. Covey was an amazing neighbor. The way he interacted with my children was amazing. He helped my family write a mission statement. What you read about is who he was, a man of principle, concern and love.”

• Rev. Dean Jackson: “He had the gift of communication. He encouraged me to stay strong in tough times. He’s going to be missed.”

• Tom Peters, author, speaker and business consultant wrote a special tribute in the Washington Post, in portion it said, “Let’s forget the content of his books. Or the gazillions of copies ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,’ or any of his others books for that matter, have sold around the world. Let’s forget his memorable seminars — and his business success. One simply cannot pay tribute to Stephen Covey without saying at the outset that he was a lovely human being.”

• Utah Valley University: “Dr. Covey’s impact for good, which has been felt worldwide, cannot be overstated. He is an icon and a leader in the truest sense and will be missed the world over, including at Utah Valley University. As a university, we will be forever grateful for his support as a former UVU Foundation board member and as a founding member of UVU’s National President’s Advisory Board, which he remained actively engaged in for many years. He was also front and center in the institution’s effort to achieve university status and in crafting UVU’s mission statement. Dr. Covey will never be forgotten at Utah Valley University and, as a campus community, we express our deepest sympathies to his wife, Sandra, and the entire Covey family.”

• Steve Densley, president of the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce: “Wherever I’ve gone with the chamber people ask, ‘tell us about Steve Covey.’ Our hearts go out to his family. The loss is incredible.”

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