Almanac

News - September 25, 2013

Joy Covey killed in bike accident

by Dave Boyce

Joy Dianne Covey, a former CFO of Amazon and a Woodside resident, was killed Sept. 18 when the bicycle she was riding collided with a van on Skyline Boulevard about three miles south of the intersection with La Honda Road.

Ms. Covey, 50, was the current treasurer for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and was a chief financial officer at Amazon from 1996 to 1999.

Ms. Covey's path to the executive offices at Amazon was unusual. She dropped out of high school at 15, left home and took a job in Fresno as a grocery clerk, according to a 2002 interview with the Harvard Law Bulletin. It set a pattern. "(H)aving fallen off the track, in a way I think I acquired a sense of independence in how I make decisions," she said. "It's really helped me not worry so much whether other people approve of my choices."

While in Fresno, she enrolled at California State University and finished in two and a half years "because I wanted to get on with things," she said. She graduated summa cum laude with a degree in business administration. In 2003, she received the university's Distinguished Alumna Award.

At Harvard University, where she acquired degrees from the law and business schools, she recalled having lunch with fellow students who had taken the traditional route into college. "People would talk about their favorite seventeenth-century poets, and I'd be thinking, 'Could I even name five poets? From any century?' So that was intimidating, and it wasn't until we got our first-semester grades back that I started to realize that everything was going to be OK," she said.

Ms. Covey graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1990 and graduated from the business school in the same year.

Law school taught Ms. Covey to break down and analyze questions, an essential skill at Amazon, she said. "A lot of things we did were things that hadn't been done before, or situations that had never been dealt with," she said in the Harvard Law interview. "Rather than asking ourselves, 'How has this been done in the past? What's the answer to this question?' we said, 'Where do we want to go and what are our goals?'"

Go to tinyurl.com/JCovey for the complete interview.

In 1999, Fortune magazine named Ms. Covey one of the 50 Most Powerful Business Women in America, and in 2000, the World Economic Forum selected her as one of 100 "Global Leaders for Tomorrow."

As treasurer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, Ms. Covey was "a close friend and advisor (and) a deeply committed environmentalist," NRDC spokesperson Kate Slusark Kiely said in an email. "She encapsulated the heart and soul of NRDC and will be so deeply missed by all the NRDC family."

"The entire NRDC family is devastated by the tragic loss of our beloved Trustee, Joy Covey," said NRDC president Frances Beinecke. "During her nine years as a NRDC trustee, she worked tirelessly to help protect our oceans and last wild places. Her indomitable spirit and her passion for nature and wildlife were infectious to all her knew her."

The accident

Ms. Covey was traveling north on a downhill section of Skyline at about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, when a white Mazda minivan traveling south turned left onto Elk Tree Road "directly in front of the bicycle," the CHP said.

The bike collided with the right side of the van, the CHP said. A 22-year-old man from Fremont was driving the van, the CHP said.

Authorities closed a lane of Highway 35 at Highway 84 in Skylonda shortly after 2 p.m. and issued a Sig alert; they re-opened the roadway at about 3:30 p.m., according to the CHP. Medics on the scene called in a LifeFlight helicopter ambulance, records of the incident show.

Medics pronounced Ms. Covey dead at the scene as a result of the collision. She was wearing a helmet, the CHP said.

The CHP is investigating the incident. Officers released the van driver at the scene. If the district attorney were to bring charges against the driver, that would have to wait until after the investigation is complete, CHP Officer Art Montiel said.

The CHP is asking witnesses to call Officer Barry Van Otten at 650-369-6261.

"It does not appear that drugs or alcohol were a factor in this collision," according to the CHP.

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