Dick DeVos is usually seen somewhere in the center of business and politics, though not always at the front of it. But when his wife Betsy DeVos, a longtime Michigan school of choice and freedom of private school education advocate became chosen to run the US Department of Education, the light shone on the DeVos family once again. Dick DeVos has given the millions he’s made over the years to various non-profits and advocacy groups, but he’s always been one to keep the total amount secret. But in the days leading up to the Senate confirmation hearings for Betsy, the DeVos’s revealed that their lifetime giving amounted to over $139 million.
So how did Dick and Betsy DeVos come to giving away that much? For Dick DeVos it started as a young man and seeing how his father Richard DeVos Sr., a wealthy businessman in Grand Rapids, MI was always involved in the community and starting initiatives to benefit the less-fortunate. Dick also had a high business acumen just like his father and after graduating from Northwood University, he spent many years working in his father’s company Amway Corporation. He took the company on a large global expansion when he took over as CEO upon his father’s retirement, and in his last year alone in that position Amway brought in over $4.5 billion in revenue. Dick had also founded The Windquest Group several years before which became one of Michigan’s largest investors in clean energy as well as small business startups.
Part of Dick and Betsy DeVos’s generosity has been strengthening private schools to meet administrative needs and building operational expenses. But they also wanted to give low income students and families a chance to attend school and also pay their bills, so with the Education Freedom Fund that they started as part of the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation, many families started being able to afford schools. In 2010 they went beyond simply helping private schools to starting a charter school with a special curriculum that included piloting lessons, and it became known as the West Michigan Aviation Academy.
Dick and Betsy have also given to art foundations including ArtPrize and the Kennedy Center‘s Institute of Arts Management. They’ve also given to hospitals including Spectrum Health for which Dick was awarded the Art of Giving award in 2006. They also give to conservative action groups such as Heritage Foundation and Action Institute and also have supported various Republican political candidates. At one time Dick DeVos ran for governor when he felt it was time to bring change to Michigan, but he fell short in that effort. He did later offer support to Republican lawmakers to pass a right-to-work law in 2012.