Dick DeVos and his wife Betsy have really put in a lot of work in not only business, but philanthropy and public service and have been one of Michigan’s most well-known education reform activists. The DeVos’s have also given their money to local hospitals, museums, libraries, universities, churches and other special non-profit venues. They’ve never felt it necessary to disclose how much they’ve given over the years, but in light of Betsy DeVos’s nomination to Secretary of Education they finally decided to make the amount known, an estimated $139 million in lifetime giving. That amount is largely exclusive of political campaigns they’ve contributed to over the years.
Dick DeVos is the Chairman of The Windquest Group, a company he and Betsy started back in 1989. This company specializes in investments in alternative energy, locally-owned retail shops, clean water bottling and even recently the acquisition of Coppercraft Distillery in Holland, MI. Prior to founding The Windquest Group, Dick worked at his family company, Amway Corporation. This company was co-founded by his father, Richard DeVos Sr. who is also the current owner of the NBA’s Orlando Magic. Dick worked at Amway for over 20 years starting off as a department manager, then later moving up to vice president in 1984 and eventually CEO in 1993. Dick stepped down from Amway and turned the company over to his brother Douglas in 2002.
Dick and Betsy started the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation in 1992 through which most of their giving has been channeled. Their giving has primarily been for scholarship programs to help underprivileged families afford private schools, but they’ve also helped fund charter school aid as well. They have even established a charter school that’s open to the public called the West Michigan Aviation Academy. This school is hosted at the Gerald R. Ford Airport and has a specialized curriculum in aviation and aircraft mechanics.
Dick was a leader of Grand Action Committee, a board of business and civic leaders that led a commercial and entertainment venue building project for downtown Grand Rapids. Dick and Betsy also helped the Kennedy Center complete its Art Institute building project with a donation over $20 million, and the institute was promptly renamed in their honor. Dick and Betsy are staunch Republican Party supporters with Betsy having served as the Michigan Republican Party chairperson, and Dick ran for governor in 2006 though he came up short. They also led the effort that saw right-to-work legislation get passed in 2012. Dick has given to conservative think tanks and institutions such as Heritage Foundation, the Constitutional Foundation, Hudson Institute and Action Institute. He’s also the author of a 1998 New York Times bestseller on constitutional ideology titled Rediscovering American Values.