Dick DeVos entered the political spotlight once again in 2017 when his wife Betsy DeVos became US Secretary of Education. She was chosen by then President-elect Donald Trump because of the work she and Dick did fighting for private and charter schools in Michigan. During the confirmation hearing the DeVos’s were prompted about their business activities and charity work, and it was discovered that their total lifetime giving amounts to near $139 million. This has been a longtime mystery that many business magazines and news outlets have tried to uncover.
The Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation has been their philanthropy catalyst and through that they’ve supported several private school scholarships and grants. Dick and Betsy sent their children to private school and often came into contact with parents who could barely afford to do so. The Education Freedom Fund and Kids First America helped many families cut private school expenses, and at one time the DeVos’s tried to build on those scholarships by advocating for private school voucher laws. They decided to become involved with charter school groups including the Great Lakes Education Project and later founded the West Michigan Aviation Academy.
Dick DeVos comes from an entrepreneurial family with his father Richard DeVos Sr. and his brothers Daniel, Douglas and sister Cheri all having worked for Amway and later started businesses of their own. Richard DeVos Sr. co founded Amway with Jay Van Andel built it into a major multilevel marketing company. Dick started out in the company as a lower tier manager but soon became an executive who was placed in charge of foreign markets. Dick stayed at Amway from 1974 to 1989 and then founded The Windquest Group, an investment and parent company to several Michigan businesses. He was on the board of the NBA’s Orlando Magic from 1991 to 1993, but then left that position to rejoin Amway where he became CEO from 1993 to 2002. During that time he turned Amway into a highly profitable international sales company.
Dick DeVos has done a lot of work with Grand Rapids city councilmen and other business leaders through Grand Action Committee including bringing in stadium and sports arena projects, theaters, museums and other developments to downtown Grand Rapids. He and Betsy also contributed to the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and had the art institute there renamed in their honor. Their political activities include a few years that Betsy served as chairperson of the Michigan Republican Party and the 2006 gubernatorial race that Dick ran in. He also worked with the Heritage Foundation and Action Institute to pass right-to-work legislation in Lansing in 2012. Dick DeVos is also on the Board of Trustees at his alma mater Northwood University.