Dick DeVos has a lot of charity work to point to as part of his endeavors to help the city of Grand Rapids thrive. He and his wife Betsy come from families where charity has been a joy of their parents, and both have been active in most of the organizations they support. But the great mystery has usually been just how much Dick and Betsy give each year and bigger yet how much their lifetime giving has amounted to. Their generosity has gone to so many organizations it may be impossible to track all their donations, but at a hearing for Betsy DeVos’s nomination to US Secretary of Education, sources revealed that their total giving amounted to somewhere near $139 million. Only a small percentage of that money has gone to political candidates.
Dick DeVos invests in little-known companies based in Michigan through his investment business, The Windquest Group. Companies in his portfolio include Huron Ventures, The Stowe Company, Boxed Water, ElectraTherm and a local Grand Rapids art competition known as ArtPrize. Before starting this company Dick DeVos was Vice President of Operations at his father Richard DeVos Sr.’s company Amway Corporation. Dick started working here along with his other three siblings Daniel, Cheri and Douglas after completing his bachelor’s degree at Northwood University. He left briefly during the years he founded The Windquest Group and also was president of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, but he returned in 1993 to become CEO for 10 years.
The DeVos’s charity first began with education when Dick and Betsy decided to start supporting private schools through the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. In addition to funding schools directly they started scholarship organizations including the Education Freedom Fund and Children First America. Several years later they even attempted to start a tax credit and voucher initiative during the 2000 election but didn’t get the votes needed. They did form a private school coalition and in 2010 they began a charter school at the Gerald Ford Airport called the West Michigan Aviation Academy.
Dick DeVos has worked to change the business landscape of downtown Grand Rapids and helped start Grand Vision Committee which was later renamed to Grand Action. This committee helped bring in the funding for a downtown sports arena, museums, libraries and other points of commerce. Dick DeVos was also involved in David Rubenstein’s art center project at the Kennedy Center, and thanks to a $22 million donation he and Betsy made it was renamed the Dick & Betsy DeVos Arts Management Institute. Dick DeVos also ran in the 2006 gubernatorial race though he didn’t win, but that part of his career helped build his credibility in the Republican Party and later led lawmakers to help him get a right-to-work law passed. He’s also the honorary recipient of the Art of Giving award from Spectrum Health.