Dick DeVos has been a longtime champion of capitalism and free market economics having seen the positive effects they have had on the Grand Rapids community as owner of The Windquest Group and former CEO of Amway Corporation. He has spearheaded non-profit groups such as Education Freedom Fund, Grand Action, and the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation. What’s remained largely unknown is just how much he has given to charity over the years, and in a recent article by MLive it was found that he and Betsy have given over $139 million, an amount that’s been hard to track over the years aside from public tax returns and various financial reports.
Dick DeVos saw philanthropy practiced at a young age by his parents Richard and Helen DeVos. Richard DeVos Sr. is the cofounder of the direct selling giant Amway Corporation and also was a leading contributor to former President Gerald Ford’s campaign. Dick grew up seeing his father run the company and sometimes did small tasks around the main operational center. At age 19 he started taking up managerial roles and at 29 he became Vice President of Sales. Dick left Amway temporarily to run for the Michigan State Board of Education and to start The Windquest Group. A few years later he returned and became CEO and opened up Alticor, a parent company to Amway and the key engine for overseas sales which increased company profits in the billions of dollars. Dick left Amway in 2002 and started working more in non-profits and his own company.
The key areas Dick and Betsy have addressed in philanthropy are education and arts. It began when they saw the less fortunate families struggling to keep their children in private schools, so Dick and Betsy decided to start scholarships at Education Freedom Fund and Children First America to help the Children’s Scholarship Fund keep private schools in operation. But it went a step further in 2000 when they tried to get a ballot initiative passed to allow for tax credits and vouchers, but it was voted down in the election that fall. But several years later they had a victory when they formed the Great Lakes Education Coalition and also started the West Michigan Aviation Academy.
Dick and Betsy also have been contributing to children’s hospitals and advanced medical centers including Spectrum Health and the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. His gifts to these centers resulted in his winning the Art of Giving award in 2006. That same year he ran for governor but was defeated by incumbent Granholm. He went to work after the 2012 presidential election to make right-to-work the centerpiece of Michigan’s legislation that year, and despite strong union opposition the law was passed late that year.