Dick DeVos is an extremely successful businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who has been the driving force behind some of the most significant growth in Michigan’s second-largest city, Grand Rapids. Mr. DeVos’ hometown, Grand Rapids has been the benefactor in many considerable ways from all the efforts that Dick and his wife Betsy have put forth to strengthen the economic and educational footprint in this part of the state. Their efforts in these areas, as well as the extraordinary philanthropic outreach they still have, reach back to the early 1990s.
Already a man of considerable influence in Grand Rapids (DeVos was on his way to becoming CEO in his family’s Amway Corporation business), Dick became concerned when word was going around in 1991 that there were efforts proposed by some to the backing of the construction of a multi-purpose sports and convention area north of downtown. He didn’t want to see Grand Rapids adversely affected in a way similar to what Detroit went through when both the Lions (NFL) and Pistons (NBA) moved out of downtown Detroit in the early 1970s, economically crippling the already struggling city.
Mr. DeVos brought a group of business leaders together to form Grand Action, which was instrumental in such key construction downtown that included the DeVos Place Convention Center, Van Andel Arena, the DeVos Performance Hall, MSU’s medical school, and the Grand Rapids City Market.
Dick and Betsy have spent their lives working to support changes in institutions and policies, primarily in state laws affecting labor and education. And the9r tremendous outreach in the state is felt by their Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, which from 1989-2015 has reportedly given away $138.7 million to many most worthy causes in the community. These include contributions to health and human services, leadership programs, arts and culture, churches, and policy initiatives focused on scholarships for private schools and education reform.
One project that both Dick and Betsy are very passionate about and proud of its growth, is the growth of the West Michigan Aviation Academy, a non-profit charter school in Cascade Township, MI. Started in 2010 by Dick DeVos, and encouraged by then-nominee to head the U.S. Education Department wife Betsy, this public high school in West Michigan has flourished. Enrollment numbers at the Academy jumped from 80 students, attending classes in rundown office space at Gerald R. Ford International Airport, to 600 in their own building.
Like other traditional public schools and Michigan charter schools, the school is tuition-free, operating on funds per student allowance from the state of Michigan. Striving to ensure the success and growth of the Academy, the DeVoses have also contributed millions of dollars to the program, as well as providing a $3 million no-interest loan which went to the expansion and equipping of their building.
Read http://dickdevos.com/news/ to learn more.