There’s no question as to why Dick DeVos garners a lot of attention. Along that is a ton of criticism as well, but if your family has been named one of the richest in the country and you married someone who’s equally influential, you’re bound to receive both. In fact, it can be considered one of your birthrights, unfortunately.
Dick and Betsy DeVos don’t seem to mind.
Both born into wealthy and prominent families, the couple used their influence to catalyze major changes in their hometown, particularly in education and labor. Even more so today that Betsy holds the seat as the Secretary of Education and Dick — still active as ever in his endeavors as a businessman and philanthropist.
Their hometown — Grand Rapids, MI — has gone through different phases of changes, and while several key people are responsible for it, Dick’s footprint can be seen all over the city.
In 1991, Dick infamously lobbied against the idea of building a sports arena and convention center in downtown Grand Rapids. At the time, he was about to become the head of Amway Corp, built by his father Richard DeVos, who Forbes lists as the 88th richest person on Earth.
Dick’s reason for opposing to what would have been a local attraction was not to halt progress. In fact, he was worried the convention center would cause a situation similar to what Detroit experienced when the Palace of Auburn Hills and Pontiac Silverdome was built.
According to Dick, it was a too big of a lesson to forget, and in fact could be detrimental to the city.
In the end, Dick triumphed. His efforts against the construction of the sports arena led to the vast improvement of Grand Rapids — its skyline sprawled with the picturesque views of the Michigan State University’s medical school, the Grand Rapids City Market, Van Andel Arena, and the performance hall and convention center named after the DeVoses — all these because of non-profit organization Grand Action.
Meanwhile, Betsy had successfully infiltrated the complex world of politics and made her trademark as a Republican. Dick, on the other hand, was not so lucky in this endeavor, having lost to incumbent governor Jennifer Granholm in 2006. For Dick, it wasn’t the end. He and Betsy continued, and still do, push towards the betterment of many communities.
Dick serves as president of the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, a charity he and his wife created in 1989. The charity has donated thousands of dollars to different organizations involved in arts, education, and religion. Learn more: https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2017-01-10/michigan-charter-school-backed-by-devos-growing
In a report last year, the DeVos power couple had apparently donated nearly $140 million over their lifetimes. In 2015, the official website of the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation reported its contribution of over $11 million to many different charities.
Only time will tell how much the DeVoses can contribute to the society. For now, they’re focused on their respective careers, which involve the community and its development.