Dick DeVos and his wife Betsy are the heads of the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, a non-profit group in Grand Rapids, Michigan that has raised money for many local charities and social endeavors. But perhaps their biggest beneficiaries have been educational institutions. Betsy DeVos sat down with Philanthropy Roundtable and explained why education was important. One reason was that as the parent of four children attending private schools, she saw lower income families who could barely afford to do so, and that triggered a series of events in which she and Dick helped startup scholarships for these families, and promoting school of choice laws to assist. She has also used her influence as part of the state’s Republican Party and political action committees to gain inroads in education reform laws.
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Dick and Betsy started up the foundation in 1993, but they’ve been a part of many business and charitable endeavors during this time. Dick DeVos is the son of Richard DeVos, an entrepreneur who co-founded Amway Corporation along with his friend Jan Van Andel. Dick spent most of his early career working under his father at the company, and eventually took over as CEO when his father retired. Dick eventually left the company to be run by his brother Doug, and today he and Betsy currently run the Windquest Group, an investment firm with a portfolio in manufacturing, energy, and technological industries.
Dick DeVos made his first appearance in civics and public office when he ran for and won a position to the Michigan state Board of Education in 1990. He only stayed on for two years there, but he later helped start a charter school along with his wife Betsy called the West Michigan Aviation Academy. This school provides standard education, but also teaches students how to fly, build hang gliders, and mechanical information.
The DeVos’s are staunch Republican Party supporters, and Dick’s family has been longtime friends with former President Gerald R. Ford’s family. Betsy was chair of the Michigan Republican Party for a time, and Dick at one point decided to run for governor in 2006. Dick DeVos also shares insights into conservative principles in his book “Rediscovering American Values,” a 1998 New York Times bestseller with a preface from former President Ford. The DeVos’s have also generously given to local museums and hospitals, and even helped fund the Kennedy Center’s art institute which was renamed for them.