In the year 1991, Dick DeVos, a pilot, and son of Richard DeVos the billionaire co-founder of Amway, played an instrumental role in preventing the establishment of a multipurpose sports and convention arena in Grand Rapids. Dick’s drive to lobby against the construction was fueled by his concern that Grand Rapids would suffer the same fate as Detroit; when the Palace of Auburn Hills and Pontiac Silverdome were erected. The construction in Detroit eventually led to The Lions and the Pistons leaving the city.
The spirited campaign against the construction of the sports facility was spearheaded by DeVos and a conglomeration of like-minded business leaders. The business leaders involved were the same people who led efforts in the construction of the DeVos Performance Hall, Van Andel Arena, Michigan State University’s Medical school, and the Grand Rapids City Market. Dick DeVos himself was a seasoned CEO, having served as a president of Amway and also running his firm, the Windquest Group, a holding company housing other businesses such as Boxed Water is Better, The Stow Company, and Coppercraft Distillery.
With the immense influence and family fortune, Dick and his wife Betsy DeVos were keen on implementing change in various institutions. They also sought to institute significant changes in multiple policies. Changes in the various state laws concerning labor and education are among the key aspects that the couple has implemented using their political influence.
A review of the donations that Dick and Betsy DeVos have given over the years reveals that from 1989 to the year 2015, they managed to donate around $138.7 million to various churches, arts and culture, leadership programs, and policy initiatives seeking to institute reforms in education and offer scholarships to private schools.
For example, in the construction of a children’s hospital in the Spectrum Health System worth $103 million, the couple donated $12.5 million. Construction of the facility allowed parents to easily access health care, as opposed to driving to Mayo or Ann Arbor to seek healthcare.
In regards to education, Dick DeVos established an aviation charter high school at the International Airport at Grand Rapids in the year 2010. The underlying motivation to establish the school was to create opportunities for other children hailing from low-income families to enjoy similar opportunities as their children.
Through hard work and determination, the nonprofit charter school grew in leaps and bounds beginning with 80 students in a dilapidated office, to currently training over 600 students from seven counties. The long-standing experience in aviation also saw Dick DeVos appointed to the delegation performing oversight functions in the Federal Aviation Administration. Further, through adept negotiation skills and powerful networks, Dick DeVos was also responsible for luring the Southwest Airline to his hometown.
However, the journey to reforming society has not always been trouble-free. DeVos sponsored a constitutional amendment in the year 2000 to have tax-funded vouchers for students to access private school. The amendment was rejected. Additionally, Dick lost in a costly campaign seeking governorship. However, the uncanny persistence saw DeVos advocate for vouchers for private schools until it came to pass. Currently, numerous states have the vouchers the Devos couple sought to establish.
Visit http://www.dbdvfoundation.org/ to learn more.