Dick Devos: Reformer and Philanthropist

In 1991, Dick DeVos decided to challenge the plan to put an all-purpose arena in Grand Rapid’s downtown area. With the help of a few other like-mined people, the idea was shot down. DeVos cited what happened to downtown Detroit when The Palace at Auburn Hills and The Pontiac Silverdome were abandoned by the Pistons and the Lions a few years earlier.


DeVos is a bonifide changemaker. The former Amway CEO has done a great deal to better the city since that time. The DeVos name carries a lot of weight. His father is the co-founder of Amway Products. DeVos served as company CEO from 1993-2002.


While DeVos was able to thwart the downtown plans, he was able to replace them with the building of Van Amdel Arena, a convention center that bears his family’s name and the Michigan State Medical School.


Not only does DeVos come from a great deal of wealth, his wife, current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, also comes from a family of billionaires. The combination of both families wields a great deal of power. The DeVoses wield a lot of political influence and enough money to shape policies affecting labor and education.


Both DeVoses worked in tandem: Mrs DeVos, to get more charter schools built and Mr. DeVos, to roll back organized labor and unions. In fact, Detroit, the birthplace of unions, is now a right-to-work state due to his efforts.


The DeVoses have used their foundation to fund the arts, education, churches, human services and other programs to the tune of $138 million.


The couple notably donated $12.5 million towards the building of the Spectrum Health System Children’s Hospital. The children’s hospital is a closer option for families who previously had to make longer drives to Ann Arbor and Chicago.


DeVos has always been big on education advocacy. In 2006, he sought to unseat incumbent Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. DeVos funded his own campaign, and it was a costly loss.


But even the loss didn’t stop DeVos from pushing charter schools. While he and his wife were unable to convince citizens to pay for charter schools using their tax dollars, they helped get some form of voucher programs implemented in 24 states.


Read http://dickdevos.com/news/ to learn more.

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