Sometimes philanthropy is looked at as simply a side job for businessmen and famous people, but for Dick DeVos he has been active in it for many years. He’s been listed in several media outlets as one of the nation’s top giving people, and its a trademark his family has embraced throughout the years. His father Richard DeVos Sr. gave to many local charities throughout his business career and was the recipient of the Simon Prize in 2006. Dick has followed in those footsteps winning the Spectrum Health Foundation’s Art of Giving award that same year and he has aimed his philanthropy at improving social causes throughout the state. Dick and his wife Betsy have never been ostentatious about the amounts they’ve given, but during the confirmation hearings of Betsy’s nomination to Secretary of Education this last month, they disclosed that their lifetime giving has totaled around $139 million.
Dick DeVos is from the Grand Rapids area and has been a longtime businessman as have his brothers Daniel and Douglas and his sister Cheri. He started out at his family business Amway Corporation helping with small tasks as a young boy, but he moved into the managerial roles at only 19. At 29 he became a company vice president and during his time in that role he was responsible for growing sales in the European and Asian Pacific markets. Dick briefly left Amway in 1989 and launched his own business, The Windquest Group in 1989 which has become a large investor in Michigan based companies. He returned to Amway in 1993 and became CEO. He focused even more resources in the foreign markets as CEO and in his final year at the company he helped bring in $4.5 billion in profits. Dick stepped down in 2002 and devoted his resources to The Windquest Group.
Dick and his wife Betsy have made most of their philanthropy about education, though they have also donated to local food banks, hospitals, churches, museums and arts centers. They have been staunch proponents of school of choice and making private education more affordable for lower income families. They’ve helped establish scholarships towards this effort and even tried at one time to get voucher programs and tax credit legislation passed but came up short. They have been against Common Core and started the Great Lakes Education Project to expand charter schools. They also founded one of their own called The West Michigan Aviation Academy.
Dick DeVos has always been politically active and supports Republican candidates, and one time he decided he himself needed to make a difference in the political arena by running for Governor of Michigan in 2006. He came up short in that effort, but he kept fighting for conservative reform agendas. He eventually led an effort that passed state right-to-work legislation in 2012. He and Betsy also support groups such as Hudson Institute, Heritage Foundation and Action Institute.