Dick DeVos was born on 1955 into one of the founding families of Amway. In 1991, his opposition to a plan to put a convention center in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan suddenly made him into a political activist. Fearing a repeat of what happened in the 1970s and 1980s when the city lost the Lions and Pistons to Auburn Hills’ ill-fated Pontiac Silverdome and The Palace, he organized like-minded members of the business community to form a group known as Grand Action to oppose it. Their successful efforts were just the beginning.
Dick married Betsy Palmer in 1980, uniting two wealthy families and using their combined fortune to help support conservative political causes. The marriage has proven symbiotic for both Dick’s business career — he became the head of Amway in 1993 — and Betsy’s political career. However, not all the causes they support have much, if anything at all, to do with politics; in the 16 years the DeVoses operated the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, they also helped fund the construction of hospitals as well as artistic and cultural programs.
While his wife’s support for school choice has lead her to become Secretary of Education under President Trump, that cause has extended to some of Richard’s extracurricular activities as well: a charter high school at the Grand Rapids International Airport known as the West Michigan Aviation Academy where students can prepare for a career in aviation. A licensed pilot himself, Dick used his influence to persuade Southwest Airlines to move their flights to Grand Rapids, a moved that made it possible to reduce the cost of air fares.
If those ventures and causes proved to be successful ones for the DeVoses, not all of them have produced equally good results. Dick’s 2000 campaign to amend the state constitution to support school vouchers was a failure, and despite using a sizable amount of his income to support his 2006 political campaign for Governor of Michigan, he lost to Jennifer Granholm. Those defeats were merely temporary setbacks for Dick’s political ambitions; even though voters in Michigan rejected school vouchers, other parts of the country responded more favorably to the idea and imposed the programs themselves. More successful within the state of Michigan was the DeVos-backed right-to-work law the legislature passed in 2012, showing how times had changed in a state once dominated by organized labor.
To learn more, visit http://www.dbdvfoundation.org/.