Dick DeVos is a member of one of Michigan’s wealthiest families and has been one of Grand Rapids’ most impactful philanthropists. The groups Dick and his wife Betsy have supported include Grand Rapids Christian Schools, Regional Air Alliance of West Michigan, Mars Hill Bible Church, ArtPrize, Calvin College, Willow Creek Association and Northwood University. Dick and Betsy have usually avoided the question of just how much they’ve given to these groups, but when the moment of truth arrived during Betsy’s confirmation hearing for Secretary of Education last month, it became known that they gave $139 million in total lifetime charities, most of which excludes political contributions. It’s not been unusual for a member of the DeVos family to open their wallet to social causes as the family’s giving as whole is estimated to be in the billions of dollars.
Dick DeVos is the co-Chairman of The Windquest Group, a company that owns several Michigan-based energy, technology, home improvement, food service and venture capital businesses. He recently had Phil Dolci appointed to lead The Windquest Group’s Stowe Company and also bought Coppercraft Spirits. Dick originally worked for Amway Corporation, a multilevel marketing company his family owns that sells all their products through independent business owners and allows them to make commission income. Dick started at the company after graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Northwood University and served as vice president from 1984 to 1989, and then rejoined as CEO from 1993 to 2002. During those years he oversaw the expansion of company distributions into new markets overseas.
Most of Dick and Betsy’s well-known philanthropic activities began in the early 90s when they started the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation. Their main concern was education and they started the Education Freedom Fund and Children First America to supply scholarships to underprivileged students and their families. But they also took an interest in charter schools and started the Great Lakes Education Project in 2003 and later raised the funds to open a special charter school with an advanced aviation and technology curriculum known as the West Michigan Aviation Academy. They also started a scholarship program for graduate college students at the Thunderbird School of Global Management.
Dick DeVos was a key figure in bringing commerce and tourist attractions into downtown Grand Rapids while he served as Chairman of Grand Action Committee. He and Betsy also got involved with organizations such as Heritage Foundation and Action Institute and Betsy even chaired the Michigan Republican Party for a short time. Dick DeVos decided to become further involved in politics in 2006 when he felt it was time to change the direction that current lawmakers and then Governor Granholm were taking the state, so he ran in the gubernatorial election that year but came up short. He did later become an influential figure in the passing of the 2012 right-to-work bill. Dick DeVos also contributed to a pollution study project at Lake Macatawa.