Credit goes to billionaire couple Dick and Betsy Devos for introducing education philanthropy and reforms in Grand Rapids, the largest city in Michigan State. Dick, who became Amway’s CEO from 1993 to 2002, remains an entrepreneur and author while Betsy sits as the current education secretary of the United States.
17 years ago, talk spread around Grand Rapids about the planned building of a multi-purpose convention and sports center north of the city’s core. Dick lobbied to shoot down the proposal arguing the project would affect the place adversely. The campaign of Devos against this facility outside the urban business hub resulted in the establishment of Grand Action.
This small group of business executives comprised the prime movers behind the construction of the Grand Rapids City Market, Michigan State University medical school, DeVos Place Convention Center, DeVos Performance Hall, and Van Andel Arena. These edifices changed the horizon of Grand Rapids and course of a city attempting to stop housing expansion.
Dick and Betsy spent a great deal of time in trying to revolutionize procedures and institutions. The couple’s political influence being super donors of the Republican Party accelerated significant amendments in state legislation that affected the education and labor sectors. Betsy successfully endorsed the growth of charter schools. Dick pushed the passage of the 2012 measure converting Michigan from the origin of organized labor to a right to work state that displaced union membership.
They formed a family foundation that donated $138.7 million to leadership campaigns, churches, education reform initiatives, private school scholarships, and various services. The husband and wife team also contributed $13.5 million for the construction of a $103 million hospital for kids and named the healthcare institution after Dick’s mother, Helen Devos. However, their efforts to influence public opinion did not always succeed.
In 2000, Michigan voters snubbed Dick’s proposal to originate tax-financed vouchers for students attending private schools. Dick eventually lost the bid to become governor of the state in 2006 against present Governor Jennifer Granholm. They refused to give up, and 24 states, as well as the District of Columbia, use vouchers for private schools.
The US Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao appointed Dick Devos as one of the Management Advisory Council members advising senior management of the Federal Aviation Administration on policies, spending, planning, and regulation. Devos serves CEO of sales giant Amway founded by Richard, Dick’s father. The new MAC member played a significant role in reviving the Gerald Ford International Airport (Cascade Township) by persuading Southwest Airlines to offer flights coming from the Grand Rapids Airport.
Visit http://www.dbdvfoundation.org/about to learn more.