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Stephen Covey passes away at 79

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IDAHO FALLS — Popular author Stephen R. Covey, who gained fame with the best-selling book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," died early Monday.

Covey passed away at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center at 2:15 a.m. due to "residual effect" of a bicycling accident in April, according to a family statement. Covey, who has nine children and 52 grandchildren, was surrounded by his wife, Sandra, and each of his children at the time of his death.

"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," the family wrote.

Covey was once named one of Time magazine's 25 Most Influential Americans and he authored a number of books focused on leadership. "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" has sold more than 20 million copies in 38 languages. Covey also founded the Covey Leadership Center, which merged with Franklin Quest in 1997 to form FranklinCovey Co., a company focused on leadership, strategy and individual effectiveness.

Matt Townsend spent nine years working at FranklinCovey, and four of them working on books with Covey himself, before founding the Townsend Relationship Center. He lauded the man as "a pioneer" who focused on principles over practices and said no one exemplified those traits as much as Covey himself.

"The most powerful thing about Stephen, honestly, is that he really was, truly, who he said he was," Townsend said Monday. "He never was out there to entertain you … He was consistent and he was thorough.

"With Stephen Covey, you knew he passionate about his principles that he believed in and really felt, sincerely, that he was changing the world. He had a deep mission."

Townsend said Covey's legacy is in trying to share that sense of purpose and mission with others, helping others find powers in themselves. It was something Townsend learned firsthand.

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.

–Covey family

"(Covey) will always, forever, be an icon in my world," he said. "All of my thinking processes come from what he laid out — concepts and ideas I was able to hang my life on. Every time I pull something out, it still has a little bit of Stephen on it."

As news of his death circulated, he was remembered by both fans of his messages who authored numerous Facebook posts as well as some of Utah's political leaders.

"Utah lost a great leader today," U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said of Covey in a statement. "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."

This was echoed in statements from both Gov. Gary Herbert and U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), who offered their condolences to Covey's family and spoke of the impact he had on so many.

“He was an inspiration to millions, a revolutionary problem solver, and an icon for business managers everywhere," Lee said. "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.”

Herbert called Covey "a good friend," who will be missed.

"His combination of intellect and empathy made him a truly unique and visionary individual," Herbert said. "The skills he taught and, as importantly, the personal example provided by the life he led, will continue to bless the lives of many."

Born in 1932 in Salt Lake City, Covey eventually served an LDS mission to England and, at the age of 29, was called as the first president of the Ireland Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Covey graduated from the University of Utah, earned a master's in business administration from Harvard and received a doctorate from Brigham Young University. In 2010, Covey joined the Utah State University Huntsman School of Business as a professor and was named the first incumbent of the Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Chair in Leadership.

Contributing: Lori Prichard


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