Dick DeVos has a lot of family connections to business and politics including his father Richard DeVos Sr. who was a lead campaign financier for former President Gerald Ford and the current owner of the Orlando Magic NBA team. He is married to Betsy DeVos, formerly Betsy Prince and the current US Secretary of Education. While the confirmation hearings for Betsy’s appointment were taking place it was revealed that the DeVos’s gave over $139 million in lifetime philanthropy. Surprisingly most of the DeVos’s gifts did not go to political candidates or parties but to education, healthcare, independent think tanks and arts and sciences foundations.
Dick DeVos has a background in direct selling and business management having grown up seeing how his father who cofounded Amway Corporation ran the company. Dick attended Northwood University where he received his bachelor’s in business management and later completed his Ph.D. He started out in various sales and distribution departments before becoming a vice president along with his brothers Daniel and Doug. In 1989 he left Amway and started his own business, The Windquest Group. In 1993 he returned and became CEO. During the ten years he ran Amway, Dick DeVos expanded its reach into 50 countries and generated billions in revenue.
Dick and Betsy picked education as a starting point for their philanthropy. As they were parents sending their children to private school, they rubbed shoulders with families who struggled to keep their children in those schools. And as they wanted to give even lower income families a chance to send children to school, they decided to start the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. Soon they had numerous scholarship funds supporting these schools, but they wanted to go beyond the scholarships to change the Michigan constitution to allow vouchers. This effort did not succeed, but they did start forming charter school groups including the Great Lakes Education Project. They also opened up a brand new kind of charter school based in aviation and computer technology known as the West Michigan Aviation Academy.
Dick DeVos once contributed to a pollution study at Lake Macatawa in partnership with Michigan State University. He also supports arts foundations and competitions including the Kennedy Center’s art institute renamed in his and Betsy’s honor, and he’s also a contributor to Grand Rapids’ Art Prize. Dick DeVos has sat on the Grand Action Committee board where he has led initiatives to rebuild downtown Grand Rapids. He is also a donor to the Spectrum Health System which presented him with its Art of Giving award in 2006. Dick and Betsy have contributed some of their lifetime giving to political candidates, but Dick has also been a candidate himself running in the 2006 governor’s race but coming up short. He has funded initiatives through Heritage Foundation and Action Institute including 2012’s right-to-work law.