Stephen R. Covey, author of '7 Habits of Highly Effective People,' dies at 79 (+video)

Published: Monday, July 16 2012 12:37 p.m. MDT

Stephen Covey speaks to students during the forum Mexico XXI Century, organized by Telmex Foundation, at the National Auditorium in Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008.

Gregory Bull, ASSOCIATED PRESS

SALT LAKE CITY — When Sean Covey was playing football at BYU, his father would sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to attend his games.

In one such instance, Stephen Covey made special arrangements to make it back from a work assignment overseas to watch his boy play. Sean Covey remembers the game wasn't his best.

"I played terrible," he told the Deseret News Monday. "After the game, he waited for me outside of the locker room and I came out and he hugged me and said, 'Sean you were marvelous out there today.' I said, 'No, Dad, that was the worst game I ever had.' He said, 'No. You were getting beat up and you kept getting up. I've never been so proud of you.'

"It made me feel so good. You talk to any one of us kids and the first thing we would say about our dad is that he affirmed the individual, always. He believed in you and was so positive and that's how he was with everyone."

Stephen R. Covey, who made his name teaching and encouraging millions through his bestselling book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," died Monday at the age of 79.

Covey passed away at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center at 2:15 a.m. due to "residual effects" of an April bicycling accident. Sean Covey said the entire family had attended a reunion in Montana for the Fourth of July holiday, but most of the family had since returned to their homes.  

"A few days before he was coming home, he started to decline," Covey said of his father. "He had that bike accident in April and he's been weakening since. We didn't think he would go so soon, but he, all of the sudden, woke up and wasn't feeling well."

All of Covey's nine children made it back to Idaho Falls Sunday. Covey's wife, Sandra, and each of his children were with him at the time of his death.

"It was what he always wished for and a great way to end," Sean Covey said.

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 was 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.

"(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, Covey was remembered by both fans of his messages who authored numerous Facebook posts and some of Utah's political leaders.

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