Dick DeVos and his wife, Betsy, have been making national headlines in lieu of Betsy DeVos’ appointment as the 11th U.S. Secretary of Education. However, the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan and its surrounding areas have benefitted from the DeVos’ charitable contributions and philanthropy for many years. In fact, over their lifetimes, the couple has given a total of almost $139 million to charity, $11.6 million of which was given in 2015 alone. Furthermore, out of the DeVos family’s estimated $5.2 billion amassed fortune, the extended family has given about $1.33 billion in charitable contributions.
As many are now aware, the DeVos family’s philanthropy is predominantly focused on education. 26% of the charitable income Dick and Betsy DeVos gave in 2015 went to education. Dick and Betsy DeVos are firm proponents of charter schools and the voucher system and believe that children deserve more quality educations that what public schools can provide for them.
Dick DeVos began working at Amway Corporation in 1974 and was its CEO from 1993 to 2002. When, in 1991, DeVos began to rally against the idea of having a major sports arena in downtown Grand Rapids, the locations that arose in response to his protest revived the struggling city and helped make it into the blossoming metropolitan center it is today. Additionally, he has provided funding for ArtPrize, an annual art competition that has taken place in Grand Rapids since 2009 and has contributed to the revitalization of the downtown area. As a pilot, DeVos helped fund the West Michigan Aviation Academy, per a suggestion made to him by Betsy. The school has been open since the fall of 2010 and had an enrollment count of almost 400 students in the 2013-2014 school year.
Betsy DeVos is not the only member of this powerhouse couple that has a vested interest in politics. Dick DeVos ran for Governor of Michigan against Jennifer Granholm in 2006 and, six years later in 2012, drafted the law that made Michigan a right-to-work state. Although Dick DeVos lost to the incumbent Granholm in the 2006 election, he has maintained a presence in Michigan politics. After donating $200,000 to the PAC that opposed the 2008 Michigan Proposal 08-2 (which proposed to amend Michigan’s Constitution in an effort to remove stem cell research restrictions), DeVos has been busy working as President of the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. He also frequently engages in civic leadership. Of course, most currently, Dick DeVos has been busy supporting his wife Betsy as she takes on tasks assigned to her as the United States Secretary of Education.