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Dick DeVos

Dick and Betsey DeVos have spent decades trying to change Michigan institutions and policies, particularly in the areas of business, education and labor.

 

For example, when the idea of building a new sports arena north of Grand Rapids was proposed in 1991, Dick DeVos began a campaign to have it built in the city’s downtown area instead. His determination led to the creation of Grand Action, a group of mid-Michigan business moguls who eventually oversaw the construction of Van Andel Arena, the Grand Rapids City Market, the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and the DeVos Place Convention Center. These buildings are credited with halting urban sprawl in the area and making Grand Rapids a true destination city.

 

Meanwhile, Betsy DeVos spent years pushing for the expansion of charter schools in Michigan and across the nation. One of those charter schools is the West Michigan Aviation Academy, which was founded by Dick DeVos in 2010. The nonprofit school seeks to educate flyers from all economic backgrounds, and it has grown from 80 students to 600 students since its opening.

 

While the DeVoses, who are both heirs to vast family fortunes, tried and failed to add tax-funded private school vouchers to Michigan’s constitution in 2000, the power couple has successfully advocated for the allowance of vouchers in 24 other states and the District of Columbia.

 

In the area of labor, Dick DeVos engineered the creation and passage of Michigan’s 2012 right-to-work bill, which gave workers the right to decline union membership. This was an astounding feat, considering that the state is known as the birthplace of America’s organized labor movement.

 

When Dick and Betsy DeVos are not busy influencing business and politics, the Republican mega-donors are devoting their time to philanthropy. Their charity organization, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, supports a variety of causes, including health programs, arts and culture institutions, churches, leadership programs, education reform policy initiatives and private school scholarships. In fact, the charity reportedly gave away $138.7 million to these causes between 1989 and 2015.

 

The DeVoses also donated $12.6 million toward the construction of Spectrum Health System’s new pediatric medical center in Grand Rapids in 2006. The center was named the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital after Dick’s mother.

 

Betsy DeVos is currently the head of the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. According to President Trump, one of the top reasons he selected her for the position was her impressive background in charter school advocacy.

 

Dick DeVos, the former president of Amway, is currently the CEO of the Windquest Group, an investment management firm based in Grand Rapids. A longtime pilot, he also serves on the Federal Aviation Administration’s Management Advisory Council.

 

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