Dick DeVos and his wife Betsy have started many foundations benefiting the city of Grand Rapids and they currently head up the Windquest Group, an alternative investment company that recently bought a brewery in Holland. Betsy DeVos shared with Philanthropy Roundtable what it is that’s driven her and Dick in their educational and charity endeavors. Her first reason was having raised a family and seeing how other families didn’t have it as well as they did for educational choices. The second is her and Dick’s undying commitment to grassroots activism, and promoting fundamental constitutional values. Dick and Betsy’s endeavors go back all the way to their own childhoods.
Dick DeVos is the son of Richard DeVos, a famous Michigan entrepreneur who started one of the highest-performing direct selling companies in the US, Amway Corporation. Richard sought to be involved and help those in need in Grand Rapids, a family model that was passed down to Dick and his siblings. Dick learned the ins and outs of Amway, being involved in small roles as a young person, but putting his expertise to work there after graduating from Northwood University. Dick worked at Amway from 1974 to 2002, with a brief period between 1989-1993 that he pursued other endeavors including becoming president of the NBA’s Orlando Magic. But after leaving Amway and founding the Windquest Group, Dick and Betsy became much more focused on local charity work and political activism.
They started the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation in 1993, and it became the key channel through which they started many organizations. Dick DeVos had formerly been elected to the Michigan State Board of Education, but decided to leave and effect change through his own means. The foundation started up the Education Freedom Fund, an organization advocating for school of choice vouchers, and providing scholarships to lower income students. Dick and Betsy even helped start their own public charter school, the West Michigan Aviation academy. The idea behind this school was to give young people a platform to learn not only about aircraft and piloting, but also give them useful job skills to use after. The DeVos’s also have been instrumental in helping Grand Rapids become redeveloped through the Grand Action Committee, a non-profit downtown development group. They have also made a large contribution to the Kennedy Center’s art institute in Washington D.C., shortly after having it renamed to the Dick & Betsy DeVos Institute of Art.