Dick DeVos just released a statement this last January that had the Washington D.C. media and the business community’s attention. He decided to let them know he had given $139 million over his lifetime to charity and other non-business activities. While the statement on philanthropy was released right before his wife Betsy had her confirmation hearing for Secretary of Education, Dick DeVos said he had planned to release it regardless. The amounts that were contained showed the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundations focus being prioritizing education at the top, but also making contributions to hospitals, museums, churches and aviation and political think tank groups.
Dick and Betsy DeVos have been some of the nation’s biggest advocates of private schools and school of choice laws, and in 1990 Dick was elected to the Michigan State Board of Education where he sought to help private schools through policy. He only held the post for 2 years since he had to go back to being a business executive, but in 1993 he and Betsy went further by establishing the Education Freedom Fund through their foundation in order to help the Children’s Scholarship fund support Grand Rapids Christian Schools and help lower income families meet tuition costs. About 10 years later they got involved with charter schools and formed the Great Lakes Education Project, and they even started their own at the Gerald Ford Airport known as the West Michigan Aviation Academy.
The DeVos’s have also donated to Grand Rapids development groups through the Grand Action Committee. Dick has been the longtime Chairman of that committee and he helped bring in theaters, shopping centers, museums, libraries and sports complexes to downtown Grand Rapids. Dick DeVos is involved on the boards of Spectrum Health Foundation where his generous contribution in 2006 made him the recipient of the Art of Giving award. Dick and Betsy also donated a $22 million fund to complete construction of the Kennedy Center’s Art Institute in Washington D.C., and it was renamed the Dick & Betsy DeVos Institute for Arts Management.
Dick DeVos grew up in Grand Rapids and spent his childhood and early adulthood working with his father Richard DeVos Sr. and brothers Daniel and Douglas at the family company, Amway Corporation. Richard DeVos Sr. is also the owner of the NBA’s Orlando Magic and when he bought the ownership stake in the team in 1991, Dick joined him to serve as president of the NBA franchise. When his father stepped down from Amway in 1993, Dick filled in his shoes as CEO and ran the company for 10 years. He also founded the Windquest Group in 1989 and since leaving Amway has made this company the focal point of his career. Dick is also a former gubernatorial candidate and one of the leading funders of the 2012 Michigan right-to-work law.