Dick DeVos is an investor and always has new business ideas he’s willing to try out as the owner of The Windquest Group, a Grand Rapids company that owns shares in many energy, manufacturing and non-profit entities. The company recently bought a brewing company that won several awards for best tasting liquor products. But Dick and his wife Betsy, who is also the new US Secretary of Education have also given away millions of dollars to help needy areas of Michigan. Most of their gifts have gone to education, but others have gone to business coalitions, churches, art and science exhibits and political activists. The DeVos’s recently announced their total giving amounted to over $139 million in lifetime donations.
Dick DeVos started his career in multilevel marketing, the model that his family’s company Amway Corporation has used for 60 years. He was director of different sales operations in the company in his early days, and then became a vice president and manager of foreign offices in the 1980s. Dick’s father Richard DeVos Sr. also purchased the controlling stakes in the NBA’s Orlando Magic in 1991 and Dick briefly served as the team’s President from 1991 to 1993. When Richard DeVos Sr. retired as CEO of Amway in 1993, Dick stepped into the role and soon the company was generating billions in international sales. Their revenue exceeded $4 billion in 2002, the final year that Dick ran the company. After that year Dick resigned as CEO to attend to other matters.
Dick and Betsy have worked to change the environments for both Michigan public and private schools. Through their foundation they’ve not only given to private schools, they’ve also started initiatives to help families afford private and charter schools. Eventually they decided to start a school of their own that not only provided high quality education to students, but also inspired them to pursue their dreams including flying. This school is hosted at the Gerald Ford Airport and is known as the West Michigan Aviation Academy. But beyond education, Dick DeVos has worked to change the business climate in Grand Rapids and even bring initiatives to attract business to the city through efforts at the Grand Action Committee.
Dick and Betsy haven’t just sought to enact reforms through financial gifts, they’ve been active in politics for many years and held positions including Betsy’s tenure as chairperson of the state’s Republican Party. Dick DeVos wasn’t pleased with the direction of the state’s economy under then governor Jennifer Granholm, so he sought to unseat her during the 2006 election. That effort failed by a 14-point margin, but he wasn’t about to give up in mobilizing Michigan’s grassroots activists to stand up for lower business regulations. In 2012, DeVos helped get lawmakers to pass a right-to-work bill that Governor Schneider signed into law.