Dick DeVos has a longtime career in investing and building business partnerships across the state of Michigan. Dick and his wife Betsy have contributed to the Michigan Republican Party over the years and have even served in positions such as chairperson as Betsy did from 1996 to 2000, and again from 2003 to 2006. But its been their philanthropy that has taken much of the spotlight as they’ve been known to give millions in any given year to social causes and educational foundations. The DeVos’s have usually kept quiet about their giving, but when Betsy was chosen to be the US Secretary of Education they made known that they had $139 million in total gifts given over their careers. Their philanthropy has quite a diverse group of beneficiaries.
Private schools all across Michigan and the US have received funding for operations from the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. The DeVos’s also wanted to help families afford private education by starting grants that could cover part of the tuition and other costs, so they both chaired the Education Freedom Fund Children First scholarship programs. While many families were able to enroll their children in private schools like Potter’s House, the DeVos’s still felt much more could be done. They began working with legislators and the election board to bring an initiative for vouchers and tax credits for private schools. That initiative was voted down in the 2000 election. Dick DeVos then pursued charter school organizations and eventually funded the start of the West Michigan Aviation Academy, a charter school with a focus in flight courses.
Another beneficiary of the DeVos’s charity is art museums, theaters and even the Grand Rapids youth art competition known as ArtPrize. In 2012 Dick and Betsy made a contribution to the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. to finish its art institute which was then named the Dick & Betsy DeVos Institute of Arts Management. Dick DeVos has also funded and led Grand Action, an organization that works with city officials and private contractors to develop the downtown area of Grand Rapids. He also recently contributed to a pollution study at a central lake in Michigan sponsored by the Michigan State University science department.
Dick DeVos comes from a family that’s been long involved in both business and politics. His father Richard DeVos Sr. was one of the founders of Amway Corporation and a top supporter and friend of former President Gerald Ford. Dick worked at Amway Corporation along with his brothers Daniel and Douglas for most of the first half of his career, and in 1993 he became CEO of the company. He had founded his own company, The Windquest Group in 1989 and in 2002 he retired from Amway to run this company. He ran in the Governor’s race in 2006 but lost to then incumbent Jennifer Granholm. But his political work continued into 2012 when he worked to bring a right-to-work law to pass in Michigan’s capital.