Joy Covey- Amazon’s First CFO

Joy Covey- Amazon’s First CFO

Joy Covey was an extraordinary woman.  Who would think that a girl who dropped out of high school at the age of fifteen would become one of the most powerful tech executives in the country?

Joy was born Joy Dianne Covey DeVries in Boston on April 23, 1963. She was the second daughter of Maurice Covey, a physician and Joan DeVries, his wife.  Soon afterwards, the family moved to the warmer climate of the San Francisco Bay Area, settling in San Mateo.

When she was a freshman at San Mateo High School, she decided to drop out. She always had the support of her parents.  She moved away from home and for a time worked as a grocery clerk in Fresno, Ca. She returned to school for one year and then passed California’s high school equivalency exam. She then enrolled at California State University in Fresno, took the CPA exam in which (with an IQ of 173) she scored second highest in the country, graduating in 1982.From there she worked for a time for the accounting firm of Arthur Young LLP before going to Harvard Law School where she earned a joint J. D.- MBA.

Soon after, she became chief financial officer for Digidesign.  She later moved to Boston to work for Avid, but soon returned to Silicon Valley. In 1996 she joined Amazon in the early days of internet retailing. As CFO, one of her duties was to persuade investors to be patient during the money-losing years. She really believed in Amazon, taking a lower salary and stock options. Amazon went public on May 14, 1997, with an initial public offering price of $18. Shares closed Wednesday at a record $312.06. When she retired in 2000, she was worth $200 million.

In 2002, she was interview by the Harvard Law Bulletin and in an article “A Conversation with Joy Covey she said, “I didn’t finish high school–left home when I was 15. I moved away to Fresno and worked as a grocery clerk. I went to college part-time at Cal. State Fresno, and then ended up finishing in two and a half years because I wanted to get on with things. But having fallen off the track, in a way I think I acquired a sense of independence in how I make decisions. It’s really helped me not worry so much whether other people approve of my choices.”

More recently she was involved in the New York based Natural Resources Defense Concil, serving as a trustee. She loved travel and outdoors activities, including kite surfing, skiing and cycling.

She died Wednesday in a bicycle accident in California when she was reportedly struck while cycling on Skyline Boulevard in the mountains of San Mateo County. She leaves behind an eight-year-old son, Tyler. Hopefully her young son will know what a great person she was.

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  1. article is mostly correct…but she was born april 25, 1963, not april 23rd. i’m her older sister judy. she moved to fresno because she fell in love with a 23 year old italian who lived in clovis with his family. they owned a chain of grocery stores called country boy markets. joy was very safe and they were a very nice family. she married when she was only 16 and my parents had to give consent…the marriage lasted 4 years, and she moved to orange county and worked at that arthur young office before leaving for harvard…she was very independent, even after she had her son, and had a nanny from when he was 2 1/2 months old, so she could spread her wings and have some “joy time.” i can’t believe she’s just gone! this is a terrible tragedy and i hope the driver of the van is prosecuted, as she had the right of way and was innocently enjoying some of that before she was to pick up her son from school. rest in peace, sister!


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