Dick DeVos is now and has been throughout his brilliant career an extremely successful entrepreneur, philanthropist, and even aspiring politician (he ran for Governor in Michigan in 2006, but lost the race to incumbent Jennifer Granholm). Perhaps above and beyond everything else, he is most passionate about watching over the welfare of his beloved hometown in Michigan, Grand Rapids. So when an issue arose in 1991 that he didn’t agree with, he took immediate action.
That year, as Mr. DeVos was on his way to becoming CEO in his family-owned Amway Corporation, he learned of plans some local business people in Grand Rapids had of the potential of building a multi-purpose sports and convention arena north of the city. Fearing that such a move would parallel what happened in Detroit in the ’70s when both the Pistons and Lions moved outside of Detroit’s downtown, devastating the city’s business economy, he made some important and significant phone calls.
His campaign against the move led to the formation of a group of influential business leaders, and Grand Action was born. This successful venture became the driving force behind such significant construction within Grand Rapids as the DeVos Performance Hall, the DeVos Place Convention Center, Van Andel Arena, Michigan State University’s medical school, and the Grand Rapids City Market. These moves helped to staunch suburban sprawl and greatly improve the Grand Rapids city skyline.
Dick and his wife Betsy, now U.S. Education Secretary, have been active in attempting to change policies and institutions for decades. As both are heirs to family fortunes, and GOP mega-donors, their influence in the political arena has affected major changes in state laws affecting labor and education. Their impact here is well known, but less known is their contributions in philanthropy.
The Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation, between 1989-2015, gave away $138.7 million to arts and culture, leadership programs, churches, health and human services, and policy initiatives centering on scholarships for private schools and education reform. Their significant, leading $12.5 million donation helped in the construction of a $103 million children’s hospital in the Spectrum Health System in Grand Rapids.
More recently, Mr. DeVos, with his experience and passion in aviation, was appointed in September 2017 to the top civilian panel that oversees the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As one of seven new members on the 13-member Management Advisory Council, he helps advise the FAA’s senior management on spending, policy, regulatory matters and long-range planning.
Appointees to this volunteer position serve 3-year terms. They are expected to retain their private and public sector positions while serving in this capacity. Mr. DeVos has moved on from the Amway Corporation and is CEO of his own Grand Rapids-based company, The Windquest Group. Again, his passion in aviation has led to him playing a major role in turning around Grand Rapids’ Gerald R. Ford International Airport. His efforts have led to spurred passenger growth and lowered airfares, as well as convincing Southwest to offer flights out of his hometown airport.
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