Washington D.C.’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has recently announced a benchmark in their current fundraising efforts to bankroll an approved expansion projection. They have reached their primary goal of $125 million and have set a new target of adding another $50 million to that number. The Kennedy Center, which issued a press release in September, thanked their donors, who have been actively donating for this project since 2013. The hope is that the expansion will be completed by 2018, and will feature a number of enhancements to the center.
But who are these generous donors? I, for one, was surprised to see the list, if only because Dick DeVos — a businessman, philanthropist, and author — appeared on it. This may not surprise you, as DeVos is currently valued at over $5 billion and is a regular contributor to the arts, but it caught my eye. Because prior to his $1 million donation to the Kennedy Center, he and his wife gifted $22.5 million to the Kennedy Center in 2010 through the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation.
This kind of generosity from a Michigan-based family got my curiosity going, so I researched DeVos and his background. It turns out that Dick is the son of Rich DeVos, the co-founder of the privately held Amway Corporation, now known as Alticor. DeVos began his career at Amway in 1974, eventually becoming vice president in 1984, and expanding the business internationally.
In 1989, DeVos left Amway to start his own business, named The Windquest Group, and later became President and CEO of the Orlando Magic, a team the DeVos family had recently required. In 1993, he took over as president of Amway and began a restructuring process in 2000 to transform Amway Corporation into an umbrella firm called Alticor Corporation.
In addition to all of his charitable efforts, Dick founded the first aviation-geared high school that makes the dream of flight attainable to young men and women in Michigan. DeVos himself is an accomplished airplane and helicopter pilot as you can see demonstrated in the video of his landing in downtown Grand Rapids below.
Another interesting tidbit to me about DeVos is that this businessman has put effort, in equal measure, into both politics and philanthropy. In 2006, DeVos ran for the governor seat of Michigan, losing to Democrat Jennifer Granholm.
The loss has not affected DeVos, however, who has seen fit to sway politics with the use of philanthropy, most notably through the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation. DeVos currently serves on the boards of several Michigan-based businesses and charities, helping to revitalize his state while providing money for education and arts endeavors. He has also sought the time to write a book, Believe!, which was published in 1985 to great acclaim.
While many billionaire philanthropists may seem out of reach, I have found DeVos is not. He has a Twitter and Facebook account that is updated at regular intervals, keeping him in touch with people who might very well have benefitted from his philanthropy or business pursuits. And in a time where too many of the rich seem to be out of reach, Dick DeVos is the only one I have found to be amicable, approachable, and genuine in his love for people.