The Utah State University community is mourning the loss of Stephen Covey, author of the best-selling book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and a professor at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, who died Monday.
Covey, 79, a Utah native, died at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls from complications suffered in a bicycle accident in April, according to a statement from his family. According to The Associated Press, Covey’s son, Sean Covey, said his dad’s health started to deteriorate while at a family gathering in Montana recently. He was rushed to the closest hospital, which was in Idaho Falls.
The news of Covey’s death spread quickly nationwide, and the USU community was quick to respond.
“There wasn’t ever a time that I interacted with him that I didn’t feel like he taught me something,” Kenneth Snyder, executive dean for the Huntsman School of Business, said in an interview Monday. “Sometimes it was stuff I didn’t want to be taught. I would walk out of meetings, and feel like, ‘I’ve got to change and do that better.’”
USU President Stan Albrecht and officials at the Huntsman School of Business posted statements about Covey’s passing on the USU website.
“We are deeply saddened by the news that Dr. Stephen R. Covey has passed away,” the school’s dean, Douglas Anderson, said in a statement. “We are grateful for the time and effort he invested here, sharing his insights, talking with our students and helping us refine a vision of the kind of leaders we can all be. The Huntsman community hopes, in some small way, we can do our part to continue his work by modeling the timeless principles he so effectively taught.”
Albrecht said Covey was an “inspirational leader who was always a powerful voice for individual integrity, strong character and extreme trustworthiness in every aspect of life.”
Covey’s appointment to USU in February 2010 was made possible by a $1.5 million donation from philanthropist Jon M. Huntsman for the first Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Chair in Leadership. Covey donated his yearly salary of $75,000 back to the school.
Steve Eaton, director of communications for the Huntsman School, said the money will go to fund the presidential chair for future professors and “eventually to help support a center that will teach the timeless principles that Dr. Covey championed his entire life.”
As a professor, Covey gave lectures at USU that were arranged by Huntsman School of Business officials to fit his busy schedule. He commuted from his home in Provo to Logan for those lectures. Officials said the last time Covey came to speak at USU as a professor was Sept. 28, 2010, for the Dean’s Convocation.
Also in 2010, as professor, he participated in a faculty retreat on campus in August, according to recollections from Huntsman School sources. He also spoke at the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence International Conference in May and another Dean Convocation in February.
“I love to interact with the students because they are the future leaders,” Covey said in a 2010 interview with The Herald Journal. “I am writing a book called ‘Live Life on Crescendo.’ This keeps me on crescendo.”
Covey received an honorary degree from USU in 2001.
He was also co-founder of the Utah-based professional services company Franklin Covey.
“7 Habits,” released in 1989, made several lists as one of the most influential business books ever — eventually selling more than 20 million copies — and is now published in 38 different languages. Then, Covey became known as a management guru for companies and government agencies. He was named to Time magazine’s top 25 most influential Americans of 1996.
Covey would publish other books. His latest work, “The 3rd Alternative: Solving Life’s Most Difficult Problems,” is this year’s required reading for all Huntsman School of Business students.
Faculty and students at the Huntsman School of Business were excited by Covey’s appointment. During a lecture in 2010, many brought their copy of “7 Habits” with them to get an autograph.
“He is an academic rock star, but unlike rock stars, it’s not just pyrotechnics. This all comes from his own moral authority,” Anderson said in 2010.