When you have gone beyond simply making money to using it to effect change, a lot of questions about just which groups you’ve given to will come up. And in the case of Dick DeVos and his wife Betsy, they’ve given a lot to think tanks and political activists in addition to local public service and performing arts centers. Betsy DeVos is now the US Secretary of Education, but during the confirmation hearings she and Dick decided to reveal where their philanthropy had gone to and just how much it was. Their total lifetime giving was found to be around $139 million with a large part of it funding private and charter schools and the rest channeled into other regular philanthropies.
Dick and Betsy DeVos have always believed providing young children a decent education is foundational to the rest of their activities. Dick DeVos’s first public office held was on the Michigan State Board of Education in 1990. While they were sending their own children to private school they saw how difficult it was for many families to afford doing so. Having always favored school of choice, the DeVos’s decided to start scholarships and grants for these families to pay their tuition through the Education Freedom Fund, Children First America and several other foundations. Dick and Betsy also were the force behind a 2000 election ballot referendum that would have allowed for tax credits and vouchers for private school students, though it came up just short. The DeVos’s did get involved in charter schools later and through funds setup through their company The Windquest Group opened up the West Michigan Aviation Academy in 2010.
Dick DeVos also was a founding member of Grand Action, a committee originally known as Grand Vision and during his time with this committee the city of Grand Rapids saw a lot of new projects and expansion of the downtown. Dick and Betsy also contributed $22 million to the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in D.C. to complete the new arts center there which was renamed for them. Dick DeVos has donated to several hospitals and won the Art of Giving award from Spectrum Health in 2006.
Dick DeVos’s business career has been with Amway Corporation and The Windquest Group, both of which he’s served as CEO. Amway was founded by his father Richard DeVos Sr. who was one of former President Gerald Ford’s closest associates and the man who currently owns the NBA’s Orlando Magic. Dick was an Executive Vice President there from 1984 to 1989 and CEO from 1993 to 2002. His political career consisted of running for governor in 2006 though he lost that race to incumbent Jennifer Granholm. But he did fund an effort to pass a right-to-work law.