Marriott Alumni Magazine

Summer 2012

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that he realized he loved teaching and discovered his talent for it. Upon returning home in 1954, Stephen knew what he wanted to do with his life: inspire others to greater success. After completing master’s studies in business at Harvard, he turned down an offer to take over the family hotel business and began teaching at the BYU School of Management. Years later, twenty-nine-year-old Stephen returned to Great Britain as President Covey, relocating with his young family to oversee the new Ireland mission. While there he received regular correspondence from his mother that often included news articles about BYU and its president, Ernest L. Wilkinson. One day Stephen wrote President Wilkinson a letter, explaining to him that he needed to change his ways if he wanted to be on the Supreme Court or continue as president of BYU. Instead of dismissing the unsolicited advice, Wilkinson got on a plane and flew to Great Britain to talk with Stephen. During that meeting Wilkinson invited Stephen to be his administrative assistant when Stephen finished his mission. He served alongside Wilkinson for four years, after which he returned to teaching in the business school. Later that year Stephen teamed up with professor and future School of Management dean William G. Dyer to launch the Department of Organizational Behavior. The new department aimed to train students in helping organizations better accomplish their goals—mirroring Stephen’s consulting and training business. Five years later, the first year national business school rankings were released, BYU landed the twenty-fifth spot. “It was the first time and maybe the last that a school has been ranked because of its organizational behavior department,” says Merrill J. Bateman, who was dean at the time. “Steve was a key person in the group that helped develop a reputation for Brigham Young University. And we’ve been building on it ever since.” But the core of Stephen’s influence at the School of Management has been his individual approach to teaching. He cared about each student, even though his classes were large. Some would even follow him to non-university speaking engagements. He quickly became one of the most popular professors on campus. Putting First Things First All his life Stephen has been on the move. While dating, he and Sandra would do at least three activities a night. He talks with everyone—from dignitaries to cab drivers—and he listens. “People who have met Stephen remember his sincerity and his interest in them,” Sandra says. “He was probably the busiest person in Provo and traveled more than anyone we knew, but we didn’t feel his absence,” Cynthia says. “When he was there with us, he was really there, and he was at everything important.” Cynthia remembers one particular experience when she was twelve. For months she and her dad had been planning a date in San Francisco. After a day of teaching at a conference in the City by the Bay, Stephen hurriedly greeted a line of people. He and Cynthia had every minute of their night planned: from riding a trolley car to a midnight swim. Cynthia watched her father greet a friend from college whom he hadn’t seen in years. The friend invited Stephen to dinner; Cynthia remembers thinking this was the end of their night. Then her father said, “I really would like to catch up, but I have a special date planned with my daughter, and I can’t miss it.” He turned to Cynthia and winked. “We’ve got our whole night planned, don’t we, honey?” “That meant the world to me,” she says. The Leading Edge Though Stephen has recently entered his octogenarian decade, he hasn’t retired. He is still connected to BYU and the Marriott School. He currently serves as a member of the President’s Leadership Council—a group of donors who lead fund-raising efforts for the university—and has mentored many students. While he no longer travels or teaches due to age-related health challenges, he is still writing. Seven books are currently in the works. One of them, Live Life in Crescendo, provides a glimpse into his life. “My father totally rejects the notion that you should retire and play golf,” says Cynthia, who is gathering stories and examples for the book. “Instead, be involved; continue to contribute. Your most important work is still ahead of you.”

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